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US offshore could be 'held back' unless states cooperate: BNOW

Sector on course for 10GW market by 2030 but grid and supply chain remain concerns, underlines new report

Closer market-led collaboration between the states on the US Atlantic seaboard will be a “must” if the fledgling domestic offshore wind sector is to take off, the head of the business development organisation the Business Network for Offshore Wind (BNOW) has cautioned.

Liz Burdock said while the US was “on track” to be a 10GW-plus offshore wind marketplace by 2030, areas including grids and transmission lines, an embryonic supply chain, and outdated port infrastructure remained hurdles that the states would have “compete … and cooperate on” to overcome.

“States, such as Massachusetts, New York and others, are working to build an industry to protect the environment, generate jobs, and provide affordable renewable energy,” she said. “They are competing with other US states, and rightly so.

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“But, states must also cooperate to minimise public costs, share resources and globalise what the US has to offer.”

In its new Leadership 100 report, based on interviews from 100 international offshore wind energy influencers, BNOW recommends steps to be taken by elected officials in the Atlantic coastal states to establish leadership in the Europe-dominated industry: 1) development of an industry ‘road-map’, 2) progress on grid and transmission projects, and 3) launch of a public engagement campaign.

BNOW executive vice president Ross Tyler noted that the report highlighted the “unique challenges and constraints” faced by the US when compared with Europe and Asia.

“Much of the supply chain in offshore wind is international. US projects and their supply chains are competing against Asia and Europe for resources,” he stated.

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“An industry road-map can help US developers and government entities identify this country’s supply chain capacity and its assets, strengths, gaps and resources,” said Tyler, pointing out it would also support “regional port strategies and technical explanations for special scalable solutions, cooperation on workforce issues, and insights on local supply chain development”.

Hatching new models for developing the power transmission infrastructure needed to transport multiple gigawatts of offshore wind on the grid would also be fundamental to the US sector’s success, he stated.

“The report said new models, including ground-breaking and disruptive policy, should be explored to expand energy generation and transmission capacity. If the problem is not addressed soon, the offshore wind market could be held back, and policymakers’ clean energy targets may slip,” added Tyler.

“Once problems are resolved, overall costs can be lowered for ratepayers.”

New York’s plans to step up its construction of offshore wind farms from a total 2.4GW to 9GW and Massachusetts’ 1.6GW of planned capacity, would together be far beyond the 4GW that the Northeast grid can currently cope with, “accelerating the need to quickly address electricity delivery and grid integration”.

The acting director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Walter Cruickshank, recently said “plummeting costs, technological advances, skyrocketing demand and great economic potential have all combined to make offshore wind a highly promising avenue for adding to a diversified national energy portfolio”, pointing to progress in moving forward lease areas including those off New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina.

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