The US looks set to compete with Europe and Asia with a massive floating offshore wind plan

Block Island Wind Farm, photographed in 2016, is located in waters off the east coast of the United States.

DON EMMERT | AFP | Getty Images

The White House said Thursday it is aiming for 15 gigawatts of floating offshore wind capacity by the year 2035, as it looks to compete with Europe and Asia in the nascent sector.

“The Biden-Harris administration is launching coordinated efforts to develop new floating offshore wind platforms, a new clean energy technology that will help the United States lead in offshore wind,”[ads1]; said a statement, which was also published by the US Department of the Interior. .

The announcement said the 15 GW target would provide enough clean energy to power more than 5 million homes. It builds on the administration’s goal of reaching 30 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030, an existing ambition that will largely be met by land-based installations.

Alongside the 15 GW ambition, a “Floating Offshore Wind Shot” will “aim to reduce the cost of floating technologies by more than 70% by 2035, to $45 per megawatt hour,” the statement added.

“Bringing floating offshore wind technology to scale will open up new opportunities for offshore wind power off the coasts of California and Oregon, in the Gulf of Maine and beyond,” it said.

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Floating offshore wind turbines are different from fixed-bottom offshore wind turbines, which are anchored to the seabed. An advantage of floating turbines is that they can be installed in much deeper water compared to fixed-bottom turbines.

In a fact sheet outlining the plans, the U.S. Department of Energy said about two-thirds of the U.S.’s offshore wind potential existed “over bodies of water too deep for ‘solid-bottom’ wind turbine foundations attached to the seabed.”

“Harnessing the power over hundreds to thousands of feet of deep water requires floating offshore wind technology — turbines mounted on a floating foundation or platform anchored to the seabed with mooring lines,” it said. “These installations are among the largest rotating machines ever constructed.”

In recent years, a number of large companies have taken action in the floating offshore wind sector.

Back in 2017, the Norwegian energy company Equinor – a major player in oil and gas – opened Hywind Scotland, a five-turbine, 30-megawatt facility it calls “the world’s first floating wind farm”.

Last year there were also a number of major developments in the emerging industry.

In August 2021, RWE Renewables and Kansai Electric Power signed an agreement that would see the two businesses “jointly study the feasibility of a large-scale floating offshore wind project” in waters off the coast of Japan.

The Norwegian company Statkraft also announced that a long-term purchase agreement relating to a large floating offshore wind farm off the coast of Aberdeen, Scotland had started. And a few months later, in December 2021, plans for three major offshore wind developments in Australia – two of which are planned to incorporate floating wind technology – were announced.

When it comes to offshore wind more broadly, the US has a long way to go to catch up with Europe.

The country’s first offshore wind farm, the 30 MW Block Island Wind Farm, only started commercial operations at the end of 2016.

In comparison, Europe installed 17.4 GW of wind power capacity in 2021, according to figures from industry body WindEurope.

Change is coming, however, and in November 2021, ground was broken for a project called America’s first commercial offshore wind farm.

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