US floating wind developer Trident has handed in an ‘unsolicited lease request’ (ULR) to build a giant 2GW project, named Olympic, in the deeps off the state of Washington.
The plan outlined in the UTR, which encompasses permitting, development, construction, operation, and maintenance of the giant project - which would be Washington’s first, would see the array in operation as early as 2030, Recharge has learned.
Olympic would be sited 43 miles (70km) offshore in water depths of 500-1,300 metres in a swathe that underwent marine spatial planning studies in 2013. Wind speeds in this area run around eight metres a second.
“The Olympic project is poised to be the first floating, commercial scale offshore wind installation off the coast of Washington state,” said Trident Winds CEO Alla Weinstein. “The project will harness our unlimited, carbon-free offshore wind resources for the benefit of all Washingtonians.
“We believe strongly that all voices matter and look forward to working with stakeholders to form strong partnerships that maximize benefits for surrounding communities.”
“Washington [state] has been interested in doing renewables since the early-2000s and, in fact has passed legislation that supports the state being 100% renewables by 2045 [like California]. The problem has been that the majority of renewables development has been done to the east of the Cascade Mountains [range], but the majority of the population is in the west [of the state],” said Weinstein.
“Offshore – floating – wind is the one resource that is available on the west side [of the Cascade Mountains. It matches was the state .and needs and so it really is only a matter of time before it gets developed.”
The submission of the ULR for Olympic to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management kicks off an initial review to confirm Trident meets the federal agency’s legal, technical, and financial qualifications to hold a lease on the US Outer Continental Shelf for commercial offshore energy development.
Washington face “constraints”, like California and Oregon to its south, linked to Department of Defence (DoD) operational zones, historical fisheries grounds and shipping lanes – as well as ambitious energy targets to meet mid-century net zero objectives – but is much less as advanced in its plans for floating wind power.
“We need to work within a somewhat limited area between the Olympic Coast Marine Sanctuary, DoD warning areas, vibrant fishing areas and shipping activity – so taking this all into consideration to find where the maritime conflicts might be is the challenge. Space is limited in determining what you can generate,” said Weinstein.
“Still, we think 3GW is not unreasonable, thought we are aiming for 2GW to start. The characterisation work [included marine spatial planning] has been done. It is speculative to talk time-lines but the lease request says 2030 as a commercial operation [start-up] date.”
Trident Winds is one of 14 developers that answered the US government call for 'expressions of interest' in projects that could add 3GW of offshore energy capacity in Pacific waters off California.
Weinstein sees Washington as having a “significant opportunity” presented by floating wind, not only in terms of clean power production but also in supply chain development for the state and wider west coast offshore wind market.
“Washington has all the infrastructure we need,” she said, she said. “Lots of [construction yards], no bridges between the lay-down areas and open sea [a problem faced by California]. Considering supply chain development, I think Washington and the city of Seattle in particular is going to shine is in its industrial capabilities.
“We are looking at the whole west coast now - we have initiatives [supporting floating wind] in all three states and we need to think about how we find an integrated solution between the states rather leaving it to competition between these states.”
Floating wind power’s global build-out this decade has been forecast by the Global Wind Energy Council to reach over 16GW, though some analysts remain concerned outdated current government policy frameworks have the potential of limiting the sector to deploying as little as 5GW by 2030.