Offshore wind is one of the fastest-growing technologies, and its development in the U.S. is moving rapidly due to several large state mandates, as reported by S&P Global Market Intelligence. As an increasing number of states set out to achieve clean energy objectives, many are considering the more than 29,000 megawatts (MW) of lease areas along the U.S. East Coast open for development.
This extraordinary potential for offshore wind in the U.S. hinges significantly on the industry’s ability to engage the right stakeholders to establish a sustainable and effective supply chain. Europe’s more than 15 years of work in the industry has shown the U.S. that this can be done — it leads to an economical source of power with costs already rivaling the expense of onshore wind and solar generation as well as the more traditional forms of fossil fuel and nuclear generation. Fortunately, leaders of the U.S. offshore wind sector can learn from Europe’s mature offshore wind market.
This is a critical step for the U.S. The European offshore wind market has endured the incremental steps required to evolve a nascent market into a mature one. That experience can allow the U.S. to bypass an immense amount of work. This requires the U.S. and European offshore wind markets to work together. Engagement today with European counterparts can allow for significant knowledge transfer that will help the U.S. create a sustainable offshore wind model within just a few years. The U.S. can soak up lessons learned and identify key differences in models to discern what is needed for the U.S. supply chain.
European firms can share insights with the U.S. on how to effectively build local capacity for the supply chain. While individual states often have their own energy policies and renewable energy goals, offshore wind’s enormous potential would suggest that states should work together with regional and federal stakeholders. This would impact decision-making on market aspects such as the supply chain or transmission connection and would drive a consistent and cost-effective approach to this rapidly growing industry.
It is unlikely that any single U.S. state can support all aspects of the offshore wind market’s supply chain requirements. Therefore, states need to think more holistically and be ready to speak as a team to support a sustainable supply chain. The U.S. has the opportunity to expedite its supply chain development through cross-state collaboration. Clustering local content could help the U.S. industry develop regional supply chains, such as in the Northeast, northern mid-Atlantic or southern mid-Atlantic regions. This clustering approach could lead to the establishment of long-standing partnerships and a strong market supply chain.
Some individual states are beginning to claim their places in the offshore wind supply chain and others are taking the initiative to explore how they might participate. For example, Rhode Island and New Jersey are considering ways to become leaders in innovation, while Massachusetts is considering a focus on training a skilled labor force. Cross-state collaboration will be required to not only create jobs but sustain those jobs and avoid potential boom-and-bust cycles. A skilled labor force focused on health and safety is critical to support cost-effective offshore wind construction and operations and maintenance.
When supply chain stakeholders can progress from the local scale to a regional or even national supply chain, there is even greater potential for the industry to evolve into an exporter of offshore wind supplies and technologies. The U.S. is already set to lead the market in floating technology; if done well, there could be future exporting opportunities.
The U.S. offshore wind market is on the cusp of monumental change, which will hinge on the country’s ability to establish a collaborative approach to identifying tailored solutions. This must build off Europe’s mature market and meet the unique needs of the U.S. market.
Offshore wind developers must address highly specialized supply considerations to meet schedule, budget and long-term operational needs.