Despite low natural-gas prices that are dampening the competitiveness of renewables, the U.S. offshore-wind industry continues to gain ground. Eleven projects, totaling 3,824 megawatts, are in “advanced” stages of development, according to a U.S. Dept. of Energy study by Navigant Consulting.
The 11 projects have either received approval for a lease in federal or state waters, conducted baseline studies or secured a power-purchase agreement.
Not all of those projects will be completed, but Navigant estimates about 4,000 MW of wind will be installed off the U.S. coast by 2020, with the majority of installations occurring in 2018 and 2019.
“We see this as a growth market,” says Ben Foley, general manager for offshore renewables for Mandeville, La.-based Keystone Engineering. “We’re going to get there in the states one way or another.”
Keystone, predominantly an offshore oil and gas company, has about 5% of its business in offshore renewables, primarily in Europe, Foley says.
The company’s patented “twisted jacket” foundation for offshore installations uses less steel and can be fabricated more efficiently through fewer welds, making the foundations cheaper, Foley says.
Keystone and Richmond, Va.-based Dominion Resources want to use the foundation in a Dominion offshore wind project off Virginia’s coast, Foley says. Keystone has talked with other offshore wind developers in the U.S. as well, Foley adds.
The offshore industry is looking to innovations such as Keystone’s to lower the price of offshore installations, one of the largest barriers to the industry’s success in the U.S., according to Navigant.
To help jump-start more efficient offshore technologies, DOE awarded, in 2012, grants of up to $4 million to seven projects to develop conceptual designs and assessments of offshore wind systems.
Next May, DOE will select up to three of those seven projects to move forward with final design, permitting and construction of the demonstration projects. Those projects must be under construction by 2017.