Birthdays. Milestones. Anniversaries. The US offshore wind industry, while still just seven turbines in the water today, has a surprising amount to celebrate this year.
Later this fall, the US market officially graduates from demonstration to commercialisation as our first two commercial-scale offshore wind projects – Vineyard Wind and South Fork – will finish major construction and begin operations.
More immediately, this week marks two years since the Biden-Harris Administration shook up the industry by announcing a 30GW by 2030 deployment goal. The announcement led to a focus and flurry of activity from the federal government and its dozens of agencies and bureaus that has given badly needed confidence to the industry.
Encouragingly, the Biden-Harris Administration is largely holding up their side of the bargain – more than 40GW of area under site control, buttressed by three new lease auctions last year, and efforts to bring certainty to the permitting process resulted in a pipeline of 12GW of projects awaiting final approval.
Selfishly, I would be remiss not to note a milestone near to my heart. Ten years ago, as Maryland debated the state’s first offshore wind bill, a group of businesses came together to form the Business Network for Offshore Wind. In 2023, with nearly 600 member organisations, we are the leading offshore wind body in the US; to mark this occasion, we welcome nearly 4,000 people representing the breadth and depth of the industry to the International Offshore Wind Partnering Forum (IPF) at home in Baltimore.
All of these milestones are worthy of celebration, but also reflection. We would have been ecstatic to hear 10 years ago that we’d find ourselves in 2023 with states calling for 77GW of power and the backing of the federal government. But our problems and challenges only grow with our success, and as the market changes so must we.
The federal government has laid out a path to achieve our 30GW goal, but industry and government are still in danger of missing it. We still have unsolved challenges: workforce, vessel, port and supply chain constraints, grid & transmission bottlenecks, but now we will add inflation and mitigating contractor risk, along with cybersecurity and organised disinformation campaigns to the challenges we must overcome.
Solving these riddles, and some are truly riddles, requires a changing of our mindset. This week at IPF, I’ll challenge our industry; in order to accomplish our 30GW goal, our mindset must move beyond it and start planning for where we know this industry is going.
Today, states want 77GW, a number we know will grow as states like Maryland, New York, and New Jersey chart their net-zero pathways. Our long-term national goal is 110GW, but with the Inflation Reduction Act accelerating electrification and unlocking new markets for offshore wind – like green hydrogen – we now can’t say how high that number will actually grow.
We are rightfully counting our accomplishments one by one but now we must start planning big – only then can we achieve macro breakthroughs. If we admit and embrace our need for dozens more ports capable of supporting a new floating turbine industry, does that not change the urgency that we plan, finance, and build them?
Just getting one more US market WTIV sometimes seems unsurmountable, but knowing we need five changes the conversation around financing them. Thinking big and acting big opens doors to new policies and practices that will solve our transmission, vessel, and supply chain problems.
So, this week as the industry convenes in Baltimore, let’s start thinking big. Let’s embrace a 110GW goal as our industry’s floor and have the kinds of conversations that allow us to plan for a big market. Then, watch us as we sail past our 30GW goals.
Liz Burdock is founder and CEO of the Business Network for Offshore Wind, the largest non-profit dedicated solely to growing the offshore wind industry and its supply chain.