The U.S. Department of Energy's Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO) funds research nationwide to enable the development and deployment of offshore wind technologies that can capture wind resources off the coasts of the United States and convert that wind into electricity. This robust portfolio of research, development, and demonstration projects will help the industry overcome key barriers to offshore wind development, including the relatively high cost of energy, the mitigation of environmental impacts, the technical challenges of project installation, and grid interconnection.
Offshore wind resources are abundant, stronger, and more consistent than land-based wind resources. Data on the technical resource potential suggest there are more than 2,000 gigawatts (GW) of capacity, or 7,200 terawatt hours (TWh) of generation, per year in state and federal waters along the coasts of the United States and the Great Lakes. While not all of this resource potential will realistically be developed, the magnitude—approximately 2 times the combined generating capacity of all U.S. electric power plants—represents a substantial opportunity to generate electricity near coastal, high-density population centers.
The federal government has an ambitious goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of new offshore wind energy by 2030, which would support 77,000 jobs, power 10 million homes, and cut 78 million metric tons in carbon emissions. Since 2011, WETO has been working with the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to advance a national strategy to facilitate the development of an offshore wind industry in the United States. As part of that strategy, the Department of Energy has allocated over $300 million for competitively-selected offshore wind research, development, and demonstration projects.
Offshore wind energy systems require more robust designs than those on land as a result of seawater exposure and harsh wind and wave conditions. Ongoing research seeks to better understand the challenges of offshore wind plants and, in turn, drive technology to meet them by improving efficiencies and economies of scale while also lowering costs.
More than 58% of the U.S. offshore wind resources are located in areas with water so deep that conventional wind turbine foundations—large steel piles or lattice structures fixed to the seabed—are not practical. To accommodate this unique condition, U.S. companies are developing innovative floating offshore wind platforms for use in deep waters categorized as: spar-buoy, tension leg platform, and semi-submersible designs, based on how the floating system achieves stability in the water.
WETO invests in research to accelerate the sustainable development of offshore wind energy. This includes the deployment of offshore wind power and its integration into the nation's grid. This work can include facilitating the sharing of ocean space with other uses, limiting impacts on the offshore environment, and ensuring the feasibility of wind plant construction by studying the nation's available ports, vessels, and supply chain infrastructure.
Since 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy has supported a portfolio of advanced wind energy technology demonstration projects that represent some of the nation's most innovative offshore wind projects in state and federal waters. These demonstrations are among the first of their kind making their way through permitting, approval, and grid interconnection processes in the United States. The demonstrations will help address key challenges associated with installing full-scale offshore wind turbines in U.S. waters, connecting offshore turbines to the power grid, and navigating new permitting and approval processes.
WETO is supporting a $41 million national offshore wind R&D consortium to address near-term needs for the development of the U.S. offshore wind industry through wind plant technology advancement, wind resource and physical site characterization, and installation, operations and maintenance, and supply chain technology solutions. In 2018, DOE competitively selected the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority as administrator of the consortium.
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