President Joe Biden entered office pledging to deliver the federal policy framework needed to launch US offshore wind at commercial scale and unlock a potential $50bn-plus clean energy and economic opportunity this decade along the east coast.
His administration’s leadership is critical. The federal government owns the seabed on the outer continental shelf where offshore wind projects will be built, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), an arm of the Department of Interior, regulates its use through lease area sales and construction permits.
Given slow-rolling progress on both under Donald Trump, the states took the lead. They have invested in port infrastructure, research, and workforce training, while soliciting and awarding capacity – 11.6GW to date – despite lack of clarity if, or when, contracted projects could win federal approvals to get built.
New England, northeastern and mid-Atlantic states have committed to procure 30GW of capacity by 2035, a hint of the sector’s growth potential as it moves to add to the pioneering Block Island project that entered service in 2016 and the two-turbine Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot completed last year.
Amanda Lefton, the New York environmental official Biden appointed as BOEM director, faces two pressing near-term challenges with offshore wind. The first, by her own admission, is to develop “efficient and effective processes” for reviewing project plans by existing leaseholders. Her second priority is developing an “inclusive and expeditious process for identifying areas for potential future lease sales,” she says. The last one was in December 2018.
Despite the ongoing challenges, the US is poised for a first wave led by the projects below – America's offshore wind pioneers.
Vineyard Wind I
Owners: Avangrid Renewables and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners. Nameplate capacity: 800MW. Location: south of Massachusetts.
The US flagship large-scale project’s 38-month odyssey to secure a federal green light appears to be nearing an end. BOEM on 8 March completed its final environmental review for the $3bn array, a critical step toward expected Record of Decision (RoD) issuance with approval in the second quarter.
The developer would then need to submit two reports covering facility design, fabrication and installation that provide specifics as to how the project will be built and installed in accordance with its Construction and Operations Plan (COP), and best design and engineering practices. If BOEM approves them within a mandatory 60-day review period, as expected, construction can then begin.
Plans call for financial close in second half of 2021 and electricity deliveries to begin in 2023. The project will use between 57 and 62 GE Haliade-X turbines.
Owned by Orsted and Eversource Energy. Nameplate capacity: 130MW. Location: south of Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
BOEM recently published a draft environmental review, expects a final version out in August and RoD issuance in January 2022. If favourable, full commercial service is possible as early as Q4 2023.
The commercial fishing industry, which plays an important role in the New England economy, has been critical of BOEM’s environmental review process for the project. Potential impacts for the permitting timeline are uncertain. Siemens Gamesa is the turbine supplier. South Fork has a 20-year PPA with Long Island Power Authority (LIPA).
Owned by Orsted. Nameplate capacity: 120MW. Location: east of Delaware.
In 2017, this small project won a 20-year contract from Maryland for offshore wind renewable energy credits (ORECs), the industry’s earliest for firm off-take.
Last August, Maryland utility regulators gave the project a major boost when they backed Orsted’s controversial decision to switch turbines from an 8MW Siemens Gamesa to the much larger GE Haliade-X at 12MW rating.
BOEM is reviewing the project’s COP and opponents will have opportunities to make their case that Skipjack should be moved further out to sea to avoid viewshed impacts at Ocean City and other seaside resorts. Orsted will invest at least $13.2m to stage the project at Sparrows Point near Baltimore. Permitting delays have pushed the in-service date back to Q2 of 2026, the developer confirmed in March.
Majority owned by US Wind, a unit of Italy’s Renexia. Nameplate capacity: 270MW. Location: east of Maryland.
This often-delayed project is gaining momentum under new CEO Jeff Grybowski, an industry pioneer who led development last decade of the 30MW Block Island project, the nation’s first, in Rhode Island waters. Last August, funds controlled by New York-based Apollo Asset Management took a $265m equity stake.
MarWin, the first European-backed project here, also won Maryland ORECs in 2017, a deal US Wind values at $3.3bn over 20 years. The developer tells Recharge that it is “actively evaluating” turbine options including the larger, latest generation machines.
BOEM is reviewing the $1.5bn project’s COP but there is no indication when it will complete a draft environmental review. Permitting delays have pushed back in-service start several times and the latest early 2023 target appears ambitious.
Owned by Orsted and Eversource Energy. Nameplate capacity: 704MW. Location: south of Rhode Island – Massachusetts.
This project is unique in having contracted off-take (20 years) with two states. Rhode Island is taking 400MW of capacity and Connecticut 304MW.
The developer filed the project’s COP in March 2020 and expects BOEM to release a review schedule this year. Permitting delays have pushed the in-service date to 2024 at the earliest.
Orsted and Eversource have committed $57.5m toward redeveloping State Pier in Connecticut’s New London port into a major offshore wind hub with heavy lift capability that will serve Revolution Wind and their other offshore projects in the region.
Owned 75% by Orsted, 25% by PSEG. Nameplate capacity: 1.1GW. Location: southeast of New Jersey.
Among the largest US projects, Ocean Wind won a 20-year power supply contract in New Jersey’s first competitive solicitation in 2019. Orsted will stage the facility at a new $400m purpose-built offshore wind port on the eastern shore of the Delaware River that Governor Phil Murphy says will begin partial operation by 2023.
German fabrication specialist EEW will supply monopile foundations from a new $250m plant in the Port of Paulsboro scheduled to also open in 2023. Ocean Wind will employ 90 GE Haliade-X turbines at 12MW rating.
Orsted is optimistic that BOEM later this year will set a clear project permitting timeline and advance its COP. The original 2024 in-service date is unlikely to be met, according to Orsted CEO Mads Nipper.
Empire Wind I
Owned 50-50 by BP and Equinor. Nameplate capacity: 816MW. Location: south of Long Island.
Empire Wind I was one of two projects chosen by New York in its inaugural July 2019 competitive offshore wind tender, winning a 25-year contract for ORECs. The lease area’s proximity to metropolitan New York City makes it among the most valuable along the east coast. Equinor later sold a 50% interest to BP.
The developer will partner with the state to upgrade part of the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal into a facility to stage and service the project. Gravity-based foundations, towers, and transition pieces will be manufactured by third parties at new plants in the Hudson River ports of Albany and Coeymans.
BOEM has not published a timeline for permitting the project and the original 2024 in-service date is unlikely.
Owned by Orsted and Eversource Energy. Nameplate capacity: 880MW. Location: south of Rhode Island – Massachusetts.
The other winner in New York’s first tender. The project has a 25-year off-take contract for ORECs. Orsted and Eversource expect to create more than 900 jobs annually through development, construction, and initial operation of Sunrise Wind, and will establish an operations and maintenance hub in Port Jefferson, Long Island.
The developer filed the project’s COP on 1 September 2020 and expects BOEM to issue a review schedule this year. Commercial start is not anticipated before 2025.
Owner: Ocean Winds and Shell New Energies. Nameplate capacity: 804MW. Location. South of Massachusetts.
The joint venture set a US industry record by paying $135m in the last federal lease area sale in December 2018. Less than one year later, it won Massachusetts’ second competitive solicitation, signing a 20-year PPA with a levelised price of $77.76/MWh – the lowest for any US offshore wind project thus far.
That should decline to $70.26/MWh, a $25m savings each year for ratepayers, as the developer agreed to convert the 30% value of the federal investment tax credit passed by Congress in December into a price reduction.
BOEM has not published a timeline for permitting the project. The joint venture is targeting commercial start in the mid-2020s.
Park City Wind
Owner: Avangrid Renewables and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners. Nameplate capacity: 804MW. Location: south of Massachusetts.
Park City was selected by Connecticut after a competitive solicitation in December 2019 and a 20-year PPA is pending approval. The array will supply the equivalent of 14% of the state’s electric power when potentially in service in 2025.
The joint venture has proposed to re-develop waterfront industrial property in Bridgeport for transition piece steel fabrication and final outfitting for turbine foundations and as a base for operations and maintenance for the project. There would also be heavy-lift barge/vessel loading capability and outdoor lay-down space.
New England Aqua Ventus I
Owners: University of Maine, Diamond Offshore Wind and RWE Renewables. Nameplate capacity: 12MW. Location: Maine state waters.
After numerous setbacks, the nation’s only industrial-scale floating offshore wind project with firm off-take has new life. With strong political support from Governor Janet Mills, regulators approved a 20-year PPA, while the project obtained a $100m investment pledge from Mitsubishi-owned Diamond Offshore Wind and developer RWE Renewables.
The University of Maine Composites Center, the project’s driving force, is targeting 2023 to demonstrate its VolturnUS concept - a multi-patented, modular concrete semisubmersible design that would be the country’s first industrial-scale floating wind project.
UMaine’s foreign partners will oversee permitting, construction, assembly, and deployment responsibilities. If successful, plans call for development of a 100MW array in deeper federal waters later this decade.
Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind
Owner: Dominion. Nameplate capacity: 2.64GW. Location: east of Virginia.
The nation’s largest offshore wind project and the most expensive with an estimated $8bn price tag. Dominion, an investor-owned utility, will seek to recover costs from the existing rate base in Virginia as it would any large infrastructure project – a first for a developer in the US industry.
The project will consist of three 880MW phases. Dominion anticipates a 2024 construction start and full commercial operation by 2026. It will use Siemens Gamesa 14MW turbines. In December, the company filed a COP with BOEM.
Note: Vineyard Wind and South Fork are the only projects with relatively firm timelines for BOEM to issue a Record of Decision (RoD) to approve or deny a construction permit. New England Aqua Ventus is the only project in state waters but will require BOEM approvals to lay power line under the seabed to link with the onshore grid.