With roughly 80% of the U.S. electricity demand originating from coastal states, offshore wind is a crucial renewable resource to be incorporated in the country's clean energy mix. In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy launched an advanced technology demonstration program to help address key challenges associated with installing full-scale offshore wind turbines, connecting the turbines to the power grid, and navigating new permitting and approval processes.
University of Maine's New England Aqua Ventus I
The University of Maine plans to install a pilot floating offshore wind project using a concrete semi-submersible foundation design at a test site off of Monhegan Island, Maine.
Because of its location in deep waters off the coast of Maine, where traditional foundations are not feasible, the University of Maine is developing an innovative floating platform.
The University of Maine has demonstrated a 1:8-scale prototype of their floating VolturnUS foundation, and they have applied the knowledge gained in designing, constructing and deploying the prototype to the engineering efforts of a megawatt-scale design. The University and its partners have made significant progress on the engineering design of the full-scale foundation by focusing on commercial-scale manufacturing of the foundation and reducing costs. These considerations have led to significant reductions in the internal steel requirements and vastly improved manufacturability of the foundation.
In 2019, the Maine Public Utilities Commission approved and Central Maine Power signed a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement.
This project has received nearly $13.7 million in funding from DOE. The University of Maine is eligible for up to $37 million in additional funding in future project performance periods after reaching specific milestones, and subject to DOE progress reviews.
In the first phase of the offshore wind advanced technology demonstration program, Baryonyx Corporation completed longitudinal wind resource assessments and avian surveys off the coast of Texas, and designed an advanced jacket foundation using lessons learned from the oil and gas sector. Statoil North America performed numerous environmental surveys in the Gulf of Maine, as well as design studies that advanced the state-of-the-art in specialized floating spar buoy substructures.
In the second phase of the offshore wind advanced technology demonstration program, Dominion Virginia Power optimized a twisted jacket foundation design for resilience to hurricanes, which will be important for future U.S. deployments on the Atlantic and Gulf coast. Additionally, the diligent efforts of Dominion and the U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) led to the first approval of a wind energy research lease in federal waters. By pioneering the leasing process in federal waters, the project will help to inform future commercial-scale leasing processes. Dominion's development activities have also engaged industry stakeholders, leading to enhanced understanding of the unique aspects of offshore wind energy, streamlining of the permitting process, and identification of several areas and methodologies for potential cost reduction.
Also in the second phase of the demonstration program, Principle Power advanced the state of knowledge regarding floating offshore wind platforms, decreasing the weight and cost of the platform while increasing the platform turbine capacity to 8 MW. These advancements will support the next generation of floating offshore wind turbines. Principle Power also worked with BOEM to make significant progress under the BOEM permitting process; this process included extensive stakeholder outreach and consultation with local Native Americans, resulting in the enhanced understanding of the unique aspects of floating offshore wind technologies.
Also in the second phase of the demonstration program, Fishermen’s Energy worked with U.S.-based foundation company Keystone Engineering to further develop an innovative twisted jacket foundation type that will be easier to manufacture and install than traditional foundations, helping drive down the cost of energy produced by offshore wind systems. In order to ensure the safety of the workers who will service the offshore turbines, Fishermen's and Keystone Engineering also developed a new access ladder that is rotated 90 degrees, allowing workers to safely side step onto the ladder when performing installation, operations, and maintenance activities.
Finally, in the second phase of the demonstration program, the Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation (LEEDCo) explored the feasibility of using an innovative Mono Bucket foundation while also addressing technical challenges unique to fresh water offshore wind deployments such as surface icing. Mono Bucket foundations would be installed using suction rather than pile driving, which could reduce installation time, costs, and environmental impacts compared to traditional foundations. The project also developed a wind map for Lake Erie and completed bird and bat studies, which will be useful for future offshore wind development in the Great Lakes. The LEEDCo project also completed National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.
These projects were among the first of their kind to exercise the offshore wind permitting, approval, and grid interconnection processes in the United States. The project teams, Federal agencies, state, and local governments all gained institutional knowledge working to overcome technical challenges.
Broadly, the Energy Department's efforts to advance innovative offshore wind technologies support a national strategy to develop a sustainable, robust U.S. offshore wind industry. As part of that strategy, the Energy Department continues to work with partners across the government, including the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, to conduct resource assessments, support responsible siting, and overcome technical and market challenges to installation, operations, and grid connection.