Offshore Wind in the US: Scale, Jobs and Innovation

June 20, 2019
Photo: Paula Garcia
Paula Garcia
Senior Bilingual Energy Analyst

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When I visited Block Island’s offshore wind farm 2 years ago I knew I was seeing history in the making. This project, the first one in operation in the US, has 5 powerful wind turbines and an installed capacity of 30 megawatts (MW).

I just attended the US Offshore Wind 2019 conference and my mind is blown with the progress this industry is experiencing.

Let me share 3 exciting facts that I learned at the conference.

1. 20,000 MW, and counting

In the last 5 months, states’ requirements have grown from 15,000 MW to 20,000 MW

The offshore wind industry has been growing steadily. Stephanie McClellan, from the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind (SIOW), pointed out how hard it is to stay up-to-speed on the latest developments: in the last 5 months, states’ requirements have grown from 15,000 MW to 20,000 MW. This could cover the equivalent electricity demand of more than 10 million New England households.

Forecasts of state offshore wind power procurements through 2030

For context, Europe is a leader in offshore wind development with an installed capacity of more than 18,000 MW. The U.S. is expected to beat this record over the next decade.

2. A vibrant job industry

Cumulative capital expenditure forecast for key components of the offshore wind supply chain

Local talent from New Bedford at the OSW conference. From left to right: Brandan Burke, Graduate of the University of Hartford; John “Buddy” Andrade Executive Director at Old Bedford Village; and Devaughn Senna, Graduate of Bridgewater State University

The SIOW analysis also shows that there is a $70 billion supply chain opportunity in the US offshore wind industry. You can get a glimpse of what’s coming once you look at key components that will be required including wind turbine generators, cables, substations, foundations, and marine support.

Plenty of workers will be needed to effectively fulfill the requirements already in the pipeline. And in places like New Bedford, MA, where one of the main offshore wind ports will be developed, leaders are already making sure that local talent is part of this workforce.

John “Buddy” Andrade, a community development organizer, is one of these leaders. It was invigorating to see him bringing to the conference promising candidates from New Bedford ready and willing to join this vibrant industry.

3. Floating offshore wind is coming

Floating platforms have been considered an alternative for those areas with good wind resources but with a water depth of 60 meters or more, such as the West coast of the US It’s exciting to see this technology advance from theoretical discussions to a real pilot project being run in Scotland and another one in the making in California!

Floating offshore wind energy has the potential to unleash 7,000 gigawatts (GW) of clean energy worldwide (1 gigawatt = 1,000 megawatts). In 2018, the total capacity of US electricity generating plants was approximately 1,200 GW.

Developers are seeing important market opportunities for this technology across the globe, including the US, France, Scotland, Japan, and South Korea.

The power of working together

In a time when the climate crisis requires all hands on deck, I’m thankful to see that the offshore wind industry is up to the challenge. Let’s make sure that we, as a society with different expertise and knowledge, work together to make the most of this opportunity.