In late 2017, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $20.5 million for a consortium that would conduct research and development (R&D) to address technological barriers and lower the costs and risks of offshore wind in the United States. Of these funds, $18.5 million would be directed to the consortium, and $2 million would go directly to DOE National Laboratory research in support of the consortium.
DOE and the Department of the Interior identified the following research areas to facilitate the development of the U.S. offshore wind industry:
- Wind plant technology advancement.
- Wind resource and physical site characterization.
- Installation, operations and maintenance, and supply chain technology solutions.
Addressing these challenges requires industry-wide collaboration, working closely with the brightest academic and National Laboratory scientists.
In June 2018, DOE competitively selected the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) as administrator of the National Offshore Wind R&D Consortium. NYSERDA’s proposal brought together a strong founding consortium membership, with nine leading project developers including Deepwater Wind (developer of the first offshore wind project in the United States), Shell, and Ørsted (the world’s largest offshore wind developer), and a strong technical team including the Carbon Trust, Renewables Consulting Group, and DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). NYSERDA has committed to matching DOE’s funds, resulting in a $41 million R&D consortium. In January 2019, six new members joined the Consortium, including state agencies of Maryland, Massachusetts, and Virginia.
While the three R&D pillars of the Consortium were set by DOE, they needed additional specificity to identify initial research topics. In order to prioritize these topics, the Consortium developed a detailed questionnaire to identify the greatest challenges and priorities that developers face in reducing costs and risks as they develop offshore wind projects in the United States. Responses to this questionnaire from the nine founding developers and R&D advisory group formed the basis of the initial R&D roadmap, published in October, 2018. The R&D Roadmap was updated in 2019 with input from the expanded Consortium membership, now including additional developers, state organizations, and industry partners; as well as from over 40 research organizations participating in the R&D advisory group.
The Consortium will be running a series of requests for proposals (RFPs) throughout the four years of federal funding. The first RFP, issued in Spring 2019, seeks to fund projects related to offshore wind plant technology advancement, which includes optimizing the performance of wind plants; reducing the costs of turbine support structures (e.g., foundations); developing innovative mooring and anchoring technologies for floating wind; and reducing the cost and risk associated with the transmission and distribution of electricity from offshore wind. In September 2019, the Consortium announced the first project selected for funding under this RFP: the National Renewable Energy Laboratory will receive $300,000 to improve the economic feasibility of floating offshore wind plants by researching shared mooring systems that require fewer anchors and cables.
Additional information on the National Offshore Wind R&D Consortium, as well as news items and other regular updates, can be found at NationalOffshoreWind.org.