What’s the potential of floating offshore wind?

Principle Power’s WindFloat Atlantic Project off Portugal (Courtesy : Principle Power

According to a new report, the U.S. could soon be a leader for floating offshore wind development.

The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) highlighted the U.S. and four other countries —  Italy, Ireland, Morocco, and the Philippines — for their potential to capitalize on the next round of floating offshore wind growth. The report noted that Japan, South Korea, and Scotland were the “first to move” on floating offshore wind (FOSW).

These five countries were chosen from a list of 115 that had the potential to develop FOSW based on their site conditions, government policies and development targets. They also considered the cost of alternative forms.

Global outlook

Kincardine Offshore Wind (Courtesy of: Cobra Group).

According to GWEC, the global FOSW market will grow from 17 MW to 16.5 GW by 2030. They believe that the annual deployment will reach 1 GW in 2026. This is a milestone reached by fixed-bottom offshore wind industries in 2010.

The industry is still in pre-commercial stage, but it may have great growth potential. According to GWEC, more than 80% of the waters that are suitable for offshore wind development lie below 60 meters. Many of the load centers around the globe are located along coastlines.

One of the largest FOSW projects in the world is located in Scotland. The Kincardine Offshore Wind farm, 50 MW, includes a Vestas turbine of 2 MW and five Vestas turbines of 9.5 MW. Principle Power provided its Windfloat platform for the project.

Principle Power will join the panelists at the next Renewable +Series webcast, “Floating offshore Wind: How the U.S. Can Take the Lead” on April 13th. Register now for a free registration Click here.

Why the U.S.

The GWEC highlighted America’s floating offshore wind power, which it claimed is supported by renewable energy targets as well as favorable government policies.

The Biden administration has set a goal to develop 30 GW offshore wind by 2030. The U.S. East Coast is witnessing a boom in fixed-bottom offshore wind, as demonstrated by the recent auction of development rights rights off New York City and New Jersey for $4.37 billion.

GWEC noted that government support is the single-most-important factor for the growth of the floating offshore wind industry. The federal Investment Tax Credit gives offshore wind projects that start development before 2026 a 30% credit, which could be a significant advantage for the U.S. markets. The now-stalled BuildBack Better Act included an extension of the ITC.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management can manage floating offshore wind leasing management just like it does fixed-bottom development.

According to the report, floating offshore wind technology offers opportunities for development in waters off California, Oregon and the Gulf Coast that are otherwise unreachable.

What’s next

Courtesy: Global Wind Energy Council

BOEM is currently conducting environmental assessments of off-shore wind areas in Northern California and Central California. In September, auctions will be held for the rights to develop these waters.

According to California State Lands Commission, “floating offshore wind is the most suitable technology” to harness offshore wind energy along the California coast due to the depths of the waters.

The Morro Bay Wind Energy Area is capable of developing 3 GW, while the Humboldt Bay Wind Energy Area can handle 1.6 GW. Both areas experience wind speeds of around 9 m/s.

However, the floating offshore wind market in the USA faces challenges in the form supply chain and electric grid constraints.

According to the report, Humboldt Bay can support approximately 150 MW more capacity without requiring significant grid upgrades. Due to the impending retirement at Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, Morro Bay in Central California is less constrained.

The U.S. floating offshore wind market will rely heavily on Europe, Asia and the U.S. East Coast to provide supply chain support. According to the GWEC report, vessel availability will be a major bottleneck in the United States due to the Jones Act. This law prohibits non-U.S.-built vessels from operating on offshore winds projects.

Equinor and bp, for example, announced in March that they were planning to invest as much as $250 million to create an offshore wind staging hub and assembly hub at a Brooklyn, New York port. The facility will be used to support the ongoing projects of the companies as well as the growing offshore wind industry in the region.