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Potential Cable Market for US Offshore Wind
Submarine Cable NewsFeed - Submarine Power Cables
Friday, 27 February 2015 13:49

The offshore wind farm market in the United States has been struggling to develop for years, but still has a lot of potential.  Many articles have been written on the number of turbines and gigawatts, but this blog is about the submarine cable industry and what we care about is how much cable could be installed. 

It is way too early in the development cycle for even the developers to be certain of how much cable they will need, but I decided to try to quantify it using the available data.  This is not easy, as there is little data to work with, but by making a few assumptions, I came up with a formula to estimate the potential market for cable represented by US offshore wind.

While there are some initiatives for wind farms in state waters, I focused on those in federal waters, which are much larger areas and have fewer regulatory obstacles.  So far, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has awarded seven lease areas to offshore wind developers (not counting demonstration-scale projects).  These are off the coasts of Rhode Island/Massachusetts (two areas), Massachusetts (two areas), Delaware (one area) and Maryland (two areas). 

First, I took the size of the lease areas and made some assumptions on how much of that territory will actually be used for the wind farms, based on the size of existing European offshore wind farms.  Then I made some estimates on the length of the export cables (connecting the farm with the shore), assuming one export cable per farm, and calculated an average of cable kilometers per square kilometer of wind farm for the array cabling (again based on recent examples in Europe).

The result is 438 kilometers of array cabling and 350 kilometers of export cable.

But this is only half of the picture.  Besides the seven lease areas that have been awarded, another six are in the development process and may be awarded later this year.  These are off New Jersey (two areas), North Carolina (three) and Virginia (one).

Using the same methodology as above, the result is 431 kilometers of array cabling and 300 kilometers of export cable.

This brings us to a total of 869 kilometers of array cabling and 650 kilometers of export cabling – a total of 1,570 kilometers altogether.  Although this a large number in and of itself, it is likely conservative.  I assumed a single export cable, but many recent European offshore wind farms use two export cables for added reliability.  This would double the amount of export cable and bring the total to 2,169 kilometers.

For the submarine power cable market, which has only in the last few years seen annual cable contract awards of over 1,000 kilometers, the US wind farm market, although still fraught with uncertainty, could be large and lucrative for suppliers.