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U.S. Offshore Wind Gaining Momentum by the Gigawatt

5 min. read

For many years, the U.S. treaded water as it watched Europe race ahead on offshore wind power (OSW). But in 2018, the clean energy sector is surging with gigawatts (literally) on this side of the Atlantic. Stephanie McClellan, director of the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind at the University of Delaware, captures it well in a new column at Renewable Energy World. Here are a few items from that commentary and elsewhere that caught our eyes:

  • With a new OSW master plan just announced, New York is serious about a $6 billion offshore wind industry: "If all goes well, New Yorkers are looking at hundreds of turbines with a capacity of 2,400 megawatts, and a $6 billion industry employing 5,000 people." For starters, the state is ordering up 800 MW of OSW in 2018 and 2019.
  • In neighboring New Jersey, new Governor Phil Murphy is putting that state's offshore wind development plans on a fast track: Murphy "has signed an executive order to accelerate the development of offshore wind resources. The state has a goal of developing 3,500 MW of offshore wind capacity by 2030," with a first installment of 1.1 GW.
  • Massachusetts has committed to procuring 1.6 gigawatt (GW) offshore wind by 2027, "and last month three developers submitted proposals for 400 MW, including Deepwater Wind, Bay State Wind and Vineyard Wind." Also note that Orsted "skips zero subsidy Dutch wind auction, eyes Massachusetts instead." A week ago, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said in his "state of the state" address that the Bay State "is on track to complete a process that could lead to the construction of the nation’s largest offshore wind power operation." 
  • In Maryland, "US Wind’s director of project development said the Maryland offshore wind farm could create up to 7,000 jobs" and "will generate approximately 268 MW of clean energy."
  • Overall, offshore wind is taking off in America: "MAKE analysts forecast a compound annual growth rate of more than 50 percent for the market to 2026, mainly by state-level procurement in the absence of major federal policy incentives. Massachusetts, New York and Maryland are already showing promising initiatives that will kick-start the market."
  • In her Renewable Energy World column, McClellan reports: "With policy frameworks and political will now in place in five states — Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, New Jersey and Rhode Island — U.S. offshore wind (OSW) power has more than just arrived. It is surging into 2018 with approvals or pledges to install nearly 8 GW of OSW off U.S. shores, and another 16 GW planned, in an industry where size is essential to drive economies of scale." Even as we write, firm commitments to U.S. OSW keep rising, up to 8.1 GW with 220 MW more just announced by Connecticut.
  • Finally, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has a post up entitled, "One month into 2018 offshore wind is all the rage," which quotes from this report on U.S. job creation in offshore wind.
  • From SIOW's McClellan"U.S. offshore wind will clearly be an American industry, drawing on the wealth of expertise in the U.S. offshore oil & gas and onshore wind sectors. It will also benefit both of those sectors, boosting an overlapping supply chain and jobs that extend from the East Coast to the central U.S. and Gulf of Mexico." 
  • new studyU.S. Job Creation in Offshore Wind, authored by New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and the Clean Energy States Alliance, reports that developing 8 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind from Maryland to Maine will create almost 40,000 full-time U.S. jobs by 2028 and 500,000 FTE U.S. job years over the long term. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. By 2050, a projected 86 GW of U.S. offshore wind power will support 160,000 full-time U.S. jobs. Offshore wind will also give an important boost for jobs and the supply chain in the U.S. offshore energy and onshore wind sectors, which employ 250,000 and 100,000, respectively." 

Those are impressive numbers in their own right, of course. They're even more impressive when you compare them to the total number of U.S. jobs in coal mining (around 50,000) or in the oil and natural gas industries (around 178,000). Which means that the U.S. offshore wind industry could come close to matching employment in the entire U.S. coal industry by 2028, and to the oil and gas industry by 2050. That doesn't even count U.S. onshore wind power jobs, which currently exceed 100,000 – and set to "more than double between 2014 and 2024." No matter how you look at it, in other words, the U.S. wind industry – offshore and onshore – is set to become an even greater U.S. jobs engine than it already is today.

McClellan concludes:

"Everyone likes a winner. With momentum in the markets, a road map for success, and new jobs on the horizon – U.S. OSW is taking the New Year by storm, with the wind at its back and a clear path ahead."

That is some very good news -- by the gigawatt.

Topics: Clean Economy