One of the strongest drivers behind offshore wind (OW) development in the U.S. is the desire to create high-quality U.S. jobs that can support a diverse and inclusive workforce; this is needed to achieve a just and equitable energy transition. Within the offshore wind supply chain that the U.S. hopes to build on its path to 30 GW by 2030, Low-Carbon, Bio-Enhancing Concrete Gravity-Based Foundations (GBFs) for Offshore Wind Turbines (OWTs) have the potential to produce thousands of high-quality U.S. jobs. This is because the construction of GBFs is more labor intensive than steel monopile structures (whose fabrication is highly automated), and there is a greater need to fabricate GBFs close to their installation sites because of their large size and weight. The U.S. commitment of 30 GW by 2030 will require approximately $15 Bn spent on the construction and installation of foundations. Acting as a first mover in the use of concrete GBFs will position that mover to be a major player in the $150 Bn dollar OWT foundation market that will likely emerge between 2030 and 2050.
We estimate the current cost premium for this labor-intensive construction to be on the order of $3 / Megawatt hour (MWh). This marginal cost pales in comparison to the estimated $40.76 / MWh difference between the most expensive and least expensive U.S. offshore wind projects. It also pales in comparison to the approximately $260 / MWh retail electricity cost paid by New England consumers of electricity (ratepayers) over the past few years. For an additional $3 / MWh expenditure, we estimate that each well-designed, well-executed GBF could provide 60 local jobs, while each comparable monopile on a Connecticut offshore wind project is expected to provide only 2 local jobs.
In addition to this impressive increase in local jobs, GBFs can also extend OWT foundation service life to 50-100 years; protect marine mammals through “quiet installation” techniques; enable the current U.S. maritime industry to install OW foundations, provide environmentally friendly opportunities for repair, re-powering, and decommissioning; and enhance ocean biodiversity and fishing stocks through the creation of artificial reefs.
This report addresses each of these issues—jobs, environmental benefits, and service life—using publicly available data. This report aims to advocate for GBFs within the nascent U.S. offshore wind industry as a legitimate alternative to monopile- and jacket-supported structures. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates the U.S. OW foundation market to consist of 65% monopiles, 25% jackets, and 10% GBFs or other foundation on the path to 2030.1 Considering 10% of 30,000 MW to be 3,000 MW, this implies approximately three 67 × 15 MW OW farms constructed with GBFs within the next 8 years. Even though this is a relatively small part of the overall 30 GW goal, it represents an ambitious goal for U.S. concrete GBFs. Achieving this goal would make a substantial impact on U.S. jobs, innovation, and environmental protection.