Update: US names offshore winners

Fishermen’s Energy, Principle Power and Dominion Virginia Power will each receive up to $47m in additional federal funding to deploy pilot offshore wind projects in US waters using innovative technology by 2017, the US Department of Energy announced Wednesday.

The awards represent a breakthrough for the winners, which were chosen from a list of seven offshore wind demonstration projects given initial DOE grants of up to $4m in late 2012.

  • Fishermen's Energy will install five 5MW direct-drive turbines in state waters three miles (4.8km) off Atlantic City, New Jersey, using a US-developed twisted jacket foundation that is simpler and less expensive to manufacture and install than traditional offshore wind foundations.

  • Dominion Virginia Power will install two 6MW direct-drive wind turbines 26 miles off the coast of Virginia, using US-designed twisted jacket foundations. Dominion’s project will demonstrate installation and O&M methods for wind turbines located far from shore. In addition, Dominion will install and test a hurricane-resilient design to ensure that offshore wind facilities placed in hurricane-prone waters are reliable, safe and cost-effective.

  • Principle Power will install five 6MW direct-drive turbines 18 miles off the coast of Oregon, using its US-developed WindFloat semi-submersible floating foundations in water depths of more than 1,000 feet (305 metres). The design will demonstrate an innovative solution for deepwater wind turbine projects and lower costs by simplifying installation and eliminating the need for highly specialized vessels.

More than 60% of the offshore wind resource in US waters is found in deep waters – including the whole of the West Coast.

The DOE expects all three projects to be grid-connected by 2017.

The winners were announced Wednesday by David Danielson, the DOE's assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable, while speaking at AWEA’s Windpower conference.

Today’s award is divided into two parts. In phase IIa, the three awardees each get $6.7m (and must match 20% of that amount) to complete front-end engineering design, develop power off-take agreements, obtain all permitting and eliminate other remaining risks by the end of 2016. They each must also provide DOE with the specifics of turbines they intend to utilize and where their foundations will be fabricated.

If any of those elements fall through, the project cannot advance to phase IIb, which is getting steel in the water and electricity generation. Cost-sharing in this phase is 50% for the developers.

“Those are very aggressive timelines we are going to be holding these projects to. And if they aren’t going to do that, we are going to very strongly consider moving to an alternate project,” says Danielson. “We’re looking for these to be pioneering projects that really show what is possible with offshore wind. We’ll make sure we get it right regardless.”

The alternate projects are LEEDCo’s “Icebreaker” monopole foundation design in the freshwater of Lake Erie and the University of Maine-led group’s concrete semi-submersible floating foundation design (Maine Aqua Ventus) in state waters.

Each received a one-year, $3m research grant to help “de-risk” them and to complete front-end engineering. Danielson says the goal is to “advance their designs to deployment readiness.”

DOE’s selection of Fishermen’s was greeted with surprise from attendees at AWEA’s opening session, as the project has failed over three years to win support from New Jersey regulators.

Danielson says the DOE understands that there is a risk that the developer may be unable to obtain an off-take deal.

“The off-take agreement is a big step. One thing we’re hoping is that a team having gotten this award and gone through the vetting process, this will have an impact on the off-take agreement process.

The metrics for the project-selection process were heavily weighted toward innovation, and composition of each team and their ability to aggressively move a project forward to the next phase and execute. When asked about Fishermen’s choice of XEMC as its turbine supplier, a move that state regulators have questioned, DOE officials noted that all the projects proposed using foreign-made turbines.

“As you can imagine, we do not have a manufacturing capability at this point given that the market has not yet arrived,” says Jose Zayas, manager for the Wind and Water Program at DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, who oversaw the project selection process.