There are signs that 2016 will be a potentially significant year for offshore wind in the US. For that potential to become a reality needs more than just the commissioning of the Block Island project. In particular, I believe there are three key events that will influence strongly the long-term prospects of the industry.
Firstly, the Massachusetts energy reform legislation has to pass. This has the potential to enable a multi-GW offshore wind US pipeline. Experience in Europe shows that this size of pipeline, along with policy stability, is needed to achieve cost of energy reductions and to encourage investment in the supply chain. Fortunately, Massachusetts has two important factors in its favor. The water depth and seabed conditions of the proposed wind farms are similar to the North Sea, meaning that US developers can use technology already proven in the European market. Additionally, the involvement of DONG Energy as one of the developers with development means Massachusetts will benefit from DONG’s expertise, experience, and ambition in developing a successful offshore industry. DONG’s approach in Europe has been based on industry collaboration, technical expertise, and local engagement. These will all be crucial to success in the Massachusetts. Once
Massachusetts gets the green light, I believe New York will look quickly to follow.
Secondly, the submission and approval of an OREC application in Maryland will catalyze the mid-Atlantic pipeline and set the stage for inward investment. The state of Maryland and US Wind have been leaders in connecting local economic benefits to offshore wind project. We need to see those efforts reach the next milestone with the allocation of an OREC to a utility-scale project.
And finally, the Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project (VOWTAP) needs the clear go ahead. The local utility, Dominion, will get its first taste of offshore wind and, once it starts to build up its own experience and expertise, it will be in great position to lead the way and encourage others to follow.
All of these projects will provide examples of successful offshore wind farms that will encourage many others to join in. I’m optimistic that 2016 will go down in history as the year when the US offshore wind industry took off.