2018 feels like a turning point for the “always about to take off but just not quite yet” US offshore wind market. First, the degree to which the US market lags Europe can’t be overstated. In 2017, the US wind market saw no new capacity installed. Meanwhile, also in 2017, Europe’s first offshore wind farm was decommissioned because it was too old to continue operating. The 4.95 MW Vindeby using 11 Bonus 450 kW turbines was commissioned in 1991 and operated for 26 years. Europe also commissioned 3,148 MW from 560 turbines spread over 17 wind farms, bringing cumulative capacity to over 15,700 MW.
The US is at least formally in the game, with one 30 MW project brought online in 2016. The next project, however, is likely to be commissioned in 2019 or 2020 at the earliest. Nevertheless, a number of major announcements in early 2018 from New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut show the US market slowly building inevitable momentum to soon see year-over-year steady installations beginning in the mid-2020s.
In New Jersey, Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order on January 31 calling on the state’s Department of Environmental Protection and the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) to reach a goal of 3,500 MW of offshore wind energy by 2030. The first step in this process involves BPU formulating and administering a competitive power contract auction for a first 1.1 GW stage. Planning and coordination with neighboring states, such as New York, will also be ramped up. Some of the early stage has already been set up for development in New York, with Statoil having secured an offshore wind site lease of 321 km2 that could support over 1,000 MW of wind. This was through the federal government’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which to date has awarded site leases capable of producing over 15,000 MW.
On January 29, in his annual State of the State Address, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency (NYSERDA) would administer two power contract solicitations in 2018 and 2019 as a first 800 MW stage toward achieving the 2.4 GW goal he announced in last year’s address. NYSERDA has filed a white paper with the Public Service Commission laying out seven procurement options.
Connecticut also announced offshore wind ambitions in late January. It released a request for proposals (RFP) for new clean energy, including offshore wind that can produce 825,000 MWh/year, which represents around 200 MW or more of offshore wind. Rhode Island also issued a renewables RFP on February 6. It is not specific to offshore wind but it includes offshore in the list of resources to be considered. These early 2018 announcements come just after Massachusetts launched an auction for 800 MW of offshore wind in late 2017, the winners of which are likely to be chosen before the end of 2018.
States Aside, General Electric Makes Headlines
Meanwhile, US-based General Electric announces it is committing $400 million to the engineering, testing, and supply chain necessary to build a 12 MW turbine prototype in 2019 that will be 267 meters tall (853 feet) and will have a 220 meter rotor (721 feet) enabled by 107 meter (351 feet) long blades. As the US market grows, turbine supply will no longer be solely dominated by the European turbine vendors.