DOE makes seven offshore wind awards; issues report

The Department of Energy (DOE) has announced seven offshore wind awards for projects in Maine, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Virginia designed to commercialize offshore wind by 2017.

In the initial phase, each project will receive up to $4m to complete the engineering, design and permitting phase of this award. DOE will select up to three of these projects for follow-on phases that focus on siting, construction and installation and aim to achieve commercial operation by 2017.

These projects will receive up to $47m each over four years, subject to Congressional appropriations.

The sever projects selected are:

Baryonyx Corp., based in Austin, Texas, plans to install three 6-MW direct-drive wind turbines in state waters near Port Isabel, Texas.

Fishermen’s Atlantic City Windfarm plans to install up to six direct-drive turbines in state waters three miles off the coast of Atlantic City, N.J.

Lake Erie Development, a regional public-private partnership based in Cleveland, plans to install nine 3-MW direct-drive wind turbines on “ice breaker” monopile foundations designed to reduce ice loading. The project will be installed on Lake Erie, seven miles off the coast of Cleveland.

•Seattle-based Principle Power plans to install five semi-submersible floating foundations outfitted with 6-MW direct-drive offshore wind turbines. The project will be sited in deep water 10 to 15 miles from Coos Bay, Ore.

•The University of Maine, based in Orono, plans to install a pilot floating offshore wind farm with two 6-MW direct-drive turbines on concrete semi-submersible foundations near Monhegan Island.

Dominion (NYSE: D) plans to design, develop, and install two 6-MW direct-drive turbines off the coast of Virginia Beach on innovative “twisted jacket” foundations that offer the strength of traditional jacket or space-frame structures but use substantially less steel.

“The United States has tremendous untapped clean energy resources, and it is important for us to develop technologies that will allow us to utilize those resources in ways that are economically viable,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu said in a Dec. 12 news release.

Report shows big offshore potential

DOE also noted that a Nov. 28 report written for the department by Navigant Consulting and other members of the Navigant Consortium. The 200-page report said the U.S. offshore wind industry is slowing moving from early development to demonstration of commercial viability.

The report indicates that offshore wind could eventually support up to 200,000 manufacturing, construction, operation and supply chain jobs across the country and drive over $70bn in annual investments by 2030.

There are panels or task forces in place in at least 13 states to engage stakeholders to identify constraints and sites for offshore wind. So far 33 announced offshore wind projects lay in varying stages of development in the U.S., primarily along the Atlantic Coast.

Nine of these projects have reached what the Navigant report considers an advanced stage of development.

As the industry matures, there will be a need for increased production of offshore wind vessels capable of installing 5-plus MW turbines in deeper waters. Also much of the expertise gained in the oil and gas sector has been leveraged in the offshore wind sector, according to the Navigant report.

Last year, land-based wind power represented 32% of all new electric capacity additions in the U.S., accounting for $14bn in new investment. Nearly 70% of the equipment installed at those U.S. wind farms – including wind turbines and components like towers, blades, gears and generators – is now from domestic manufacturers, DOE said.

That’s up from 35% in 2005. The Production Tax Credit (PTC), which is set to expire at the end of this year, has been a major driver of this tremendous expansion.

DOE’s actions promptly drew cheers from offshore wind boosters.

““Today’s announcement is a shot in the arm for the offshore wind industry, since the projects that will now be developed are required to get steel in the water within the next few years,” said Offshore Wind Development Coalition President Jim Lanard.

“As evidenced by the geographical diversity of the project developers selected by DOE, these jobs and economic development opportunities will be available from coast-to-coast, and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico,” Lanard said.

“Winds off the coast of Virginia hold great potential for electricity generation,” said Mary C. Doswell, senior vice president of Dominion’s Alternative Energy Solutions. Developing 12 MW off Virginia Beach would provide enough electricity for 3,000 homes at peak demand, Dominion said in a news release.

Some Senate Republicans have expressed doubts about the economic cost and benefits of offshore wind, and especially a lease sale that involved an NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG) subsidiary.

While the Sierra Club said it was happy to see the coastal wind investment,  the move is tempered by continued Congressional delay in approving the PTC.

About Wayne Barber 4201 Articles
Wayne Barber, Chief Analyst for the GenerationHub, has been covering power generation, energy and natural resources issues at national publications for more than 20 years. Prior to joining PennWell he was editor of Generation Markets Week at SNL Financial for nine years. He has also worked as a business journalist at both McGraw-Hill and Financial Times Energy. Wayne also worked as a newspaper reporter for several years. During his career has visited nuclear reactors and coal mines as well as coal and natural gas power plants. Wayne can be reached at wayneb@pennwell.com.