Currently, Europe is the world-leader in offshore wind energy developments, with the first offshore wind farm installed in Denmark in 1991. Since then, offshore wind energy projects in Europe have been supplying significant amounts of power to European grids, with the United Kingdom having the largest capacity of offshore wind farms, and Denmark and Belgium ranking second and third, respectively. To date, the US does not operate any offshore wind turbines in US coastal waters, yet there are several offshore wind farms in development. To that end, the US Department of Energy’s (DOE) Wind and Water Power Technologies Office is leading the nation’s efforts to improve the performance, lower the costs, and accelerate the deployment of wind power technologies.
Offshore wind energy projects, along with marine and hydrokinetic energy developments, are essential to help the nation reduce greenhouse gas emissions and diversify its energy supply, while reducing the cost of renewable energy; securing clean, domestic energy; enabling the renewable energy market; and harnessing energy along US coastlines and population centers, where our nation needs it most. The DOE is committed to achieving these goals without risking vulnerable and commercially valuable marine resources. To aid in the environmental evaluation of these marine resources, developments such as Tethys are critical in facilitating data sharing and the exchange of information on the environmental effects of these developing offshore renewable energy technologies.
In support of the nation’s Wind Program, DOE announced on May 7, 2014 that three pioneering offshore wind energy projects along US coasts will receive up to $47 million each over the next four years. The announcement follows an initial DOE investment of $4 million to seven offshore wind demonstration projects that focused on design, engineering, and permitting work. Of these initial seven projects, DOE selected the three most promising and innovative designs to receive the additional funding to aid in siting, construction, and installation, with the aim of achieving commercial operation by 2017. The three projects selected are located off the coasts of New Jersey, Oregon, and Virginia.
New Jersey: Five 5-megawatt direct-drive wind turbines will be installed approximately three miles off the coast of Atlantic City, New Jersey by Fisherman’s Energy. This project utilizes an innovative and simpler twisted jacket foundation that was developed in the US. The manufacturing and installation costs of this type of foundation are less expensive than other foundation designs. New Jersey Senator Robert Menendez states, “The Fishermen’s Energy project is a community-driven effort that has the potential to deliver a clean source of power, create thousands of good paying jobs, and help us meet our renewable energy goals.” The project will also act as a laboratory for researchers to study offshore wind and research interactions between turbines.
Oregon: Approximately 18 miles off the coast of Coos Bay, Oregon, Principle Power will install 6-megawatt direct-drive wind turbines. This project will utilize the innovative US-developed WindFloat semi-submersible floating foundation which will be installed in water more than 1,000 feet deep. This type of deep-water foundation lowers costs by simplifying installation and eliminating the need for highly specialized ships. "Climate change is already here, and that means the federal government must support the development of innovative technologies that could make major contributions to increasing clean, renewable power," said Oregon Senator Ron Wyden. Oregon has tremendous offshore wind resources, so it is appropriate that this technology will have the opportunity to be tested off of Oregon's South Coast."
Virginia: To demonstrate installation, operation, and maintenance methods for wind turbines located far off the coast, Dominion Virginia Power will install two 6-megawatt direct-drive wind turbines 26 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. The project will utilize the US-developed twisted jacket foundation, along with a hurricane-resilient design to ensure that offshore wind facilities sited in hurricane-prone waters are reliable, safe, and cost-effective. "I'm especially excited that this project brings in a lot of local partners, who have the opportunity to make Virginia a real leader in offshore wind and create high-skill jobs in the Commonwealth," stated Virginia Senator Mark Warner.
The Obama Administration’s National Offshore Wind Strategy supports efforts to advance innovative offshore wind technologies to develop a sustainable, world-class offshore industry. To that end, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz states, “Offshore wind offers a large, untapped energy resource for the United States that can create thousands of manufacturing, construction and supply chain jobs across the country and drive billions of dollars in local economic investment.” He also added, “The Energy Department is working with public and private partners to harness this untapped resource in a sustainable and economic manner. The offshore wind projects announced today further this commitment -- bringing more clean, renewable energy to our homes and businesses, diversifying our energy portfolio, and reducing costs through innovation.”