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OWC Almanac Interviews

Mar28

The U.S. Offshore Wind Market: An Interview with Liz Burdick, Executive Director of the Business Network for Offshore Wind

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

SCW: Liz, Why is there so much optimism about the offshore wind market in the U.S. right now? 

Liz: There are four major reasons.  The first happened a couple of years ago when Ørstad, the world’s leading offshore wind developer, came into the U.S. market.  It was an important step forward to have a global leader like Ørstad indicate that the U.S. market had real potential.  The company provided an experience that we really needed to have for the U.S. market go from fledgling to a firm footing. 

The second was having the first offshore wind project in the water – the Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island.  Seeing is believing.  Offshore wind in the U.S. was no longer a theory.  We now had a project that people can visit and see with their own eyes that this can be done in the United States.

Then came the Massachusetts legislation.  It was the first offshore wind energy procurement legislation in place and set the pace for other states that have followed. 

Lastly, in May 2017, we were able to set a price point with the Maryland approval of their two projects.  Before, that we never knew what the cost of energy was going to be.  But now we have a price point of $0.13/kwh.  We know it’s not going to go any higher than that; it’s just going to go lower.  And with that price point, we can see the same trend lines that we’ve seen in Europe as we get the supply chain established, as we get the port infrastructure put in place and when we get the large developers that are now coming into the market we really see them driving down the costs. 

Now we are seeing additional developments at the state level.  At the end of January, New Jersey Governor Murphy signed an Executive Order that directs the state to procure 1100 MW of offshore wind and to have the off-take program ready in 60 days. This is part of his goal of generating 3500 MW (megawatts) of offshore wind energy by 2030. The order further directs the NJ Board of Public Utilities to update the Offshore (wind) Renewable Energy Certificate (OREC) program to help fund offshore wind energy projects, the same program used in Maryland to finance the two projects awarded last May. The US pipeline stands at 3.8 GWs now — this is not potential — this is actually the amount to be procured (tenders) or has been procured from the States (MA, NY, MD).  And in just the last few weeks we have had additional announcements from Connecticut and Rhode Island.  

The optimism that has been generated for offshore wind is now getting the attention of the policymakers, especially at the state level.  We are seeing states increasing their renewable portfolio standards – they’re looking at 50%.  Some states are even looking at 100%.  At least three states have 100% renewable portfolio standards bills in their state legislature during this legislative session.  So if they’re looking for 100% renewable energy or are moving in that direction, they need another form of clean energy to help meet those goals and offshore wind is making a lot of sense as part of the renewable energy mix.

SCW: The Nexans announcement didn’t get a lot attention in the press.  It was contained in their annual report and the true impact of the move may not have been immediately apparent to many.  When the plant fully converts, the U.S. offshore wind industry will have for the first time a domestic manufacturer of HV submarine cables.  What does this mean to the Business Network for Offshore Wind to see this happen? 

Liz: That’s our whole mission.  The whole reason why we exist is to have stories like this occur.  We want the offshore wind farm supply chain established here.  We want as much as we can bring over from Europe and get them to partner with U.S. businesses so that we can grow capacity and expertise along the whole offshore wind supply chain here.  The only way we can get offshore wind-generated electricity down to $0.06/kwh or $0.03/kwh is to have a well-developed U.S. supply chain.  That’s how Europe has done it – with a competitive and competent supply chain.  This is what is needed to drive down the cost and that’s what we need here in the United States in order for us to get past this 3.8-gigawatt commitment.  This will allow offshore wind to grow and provide a major part of the renewable energy portfolio mix. 

SCW: Tell us something about your upcoming conference.

Liz: The conference is the 2018 International Offshore Wind Partnering Forum (IPF).  It will be held from April 3-6, 2018, in Princeton, New Jersey.  It is the must-attend event for the offshore wind industry and it’s dedicated to moving the industry forward.  At the IPF you can learn the latest information on the U.S. market, regulatory updates, technical information and upcoming RFPs.  You also can generate more business by signing up for WindMatch, our B2B sales tool.  For more information or to register, go to www.2018ipf.com.

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