The Challenges of Moving Offshore Wind from the Outer Continental Shelf to the Grid
The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), operating under 2005 amendments to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA), which authorized BOEM to issue leases for energy projects other than oil or gas, has awarded 13 leases for offshore wind (OSW) farms on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) adjacent to the Atlantic Coast. Many of these lease holders are experienced European offshore wind developers that have opened offices in the United States. Lessees are preparing to submit Construction and Operation Plans (COPs) to BOEM; BOEM is simultaneously working on streamlining the federal review process and proposing new wind energy areas.
The first offshore wind farm in the United States, the 30 megawatt, five turbine Block Island Wind Farm, began commercial operations in December 2016 providing clean and sustainable energy to the residents of Block Island, Rhode Island. While Block Island Wind Farm is currently the only operational commercial offshore wind farm on the east coast of the United States, there are many emerging projects up and down the coastline.
In this regard, the governors and state legislatures in the Northeast have established new ambitious goals and incentives for renewable energy including offshore wind. Between the goals set by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, and Massachusetts Governor Charlie Barker, a total of 8,000 MW of offshore wind energy is planned for by 2030. Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo has also established a goal of 1,000 MW of clean energy projects by 2020. These goals now have to be implemented by state regulatory bodies in rate approvals and contracts with utilities and other offtakers for OSW.
The Trump Administration, participating in several recent OSW conferences, including Houston in July 2018, has articulated its support for offshore wind—as part of its “all-of-the-above energy” strategy towards energy independence. BOEM is moving forward with new lease sales off Massachusetts and Long Island and is asking the public for comments on additional wind energy areas to develop.
This article describes some of the incentives the federal government and states are using to attract offshore wind developers and the related supply chain, and to bring down costs of offshore wind. The article also identifies and briefly discusses some of the important technical, legal, and policy challenges that remain to establish a robust offshore wind industry that benefits the consumer as well as the developer.
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“The Challenges of Moving Offshore Wind from the Outer Continental Shelf to the Grid,” by Joan M. Bondareff and Jonathan K. Waldron was published in the September 2018 edition of Ocean News & Technology. Reprinted with permission.