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DOE: 54-GWs of Untapped Offshore Wind Power

Words by Andrew Burger
Investment & Markets
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At least 54-gigawatts (GW) of U.S. offshore wind energy generation capacity could be deployed by 2030, according to a new study funded by the Department of Energy (DOE). The "National Offshore Wind Energy Grid Interconnection Study" (NOWEGIS) focused on helping DOE achieve two goals: reducing the cost of offshore wind energy and shortening the time required to deploy offshore wind generation capacity.

Researchers from ABB, the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL), Duke Energy, AWS Truepower and the University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering joined to produce NOWEGIS. The research team used NREL's Regional Energy Deployment System (ReDS) model for electricity generation and transmission to survey suitable offshore wind energy asset locations, calculated timelines for deployment of 54 GWs of clean, renewable electricity generation.

Study results indicate that 5 GW of offshore wind power could be online within a decade “using existing collection and interconnection technologies...[B]oth alternating current and direct current methods show promise in transporting offshore electricity to the land power grid,” DOE explains in a news release.

Tapping into offshore wind energy: Benefits and barriers

Deploying 54-GW of offshore wind generation capacity would cut annual national electricity production costs by some $7.68 billion – that's about $41 per megawatt-hour of offshore wind energy added to the grid. The cost reductions help justify the high initial capital outlay required to construct offshore wind generation platforms, the DOE highlights.

Though the technological and engineering aspects of deploying offshore wind generation assets are well understood, significant challenges remain, the DOE notes. Actually taking advantage of all that clean, renewable power potential depends on a host of political and economic factors, including state policies and federal permitting processes. Furthermore, ongoing advances in offshore wind energy technology across all its constituent parts need to be accounted for.

There's much to be gained, however. Local, state and the national economy would benefit greatly by promoting and fostering rapid deployment of offshore wind energy generation capacity. Doing so would create demand for a wide range of highly skilled tradespeople and support a “green” workforce for decades. It would also generate a stable, base of recurring revenues for local and state governments.

An aggressive campaign to deploy offshore wind generation capacity would also go a long way towards improving environmental health and quality by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The costs of electricity would be disconnected from the global market for fossil fuels, providing utilities, businesses, cities and communities with a more stable, likely much lower long-term cost of electricity.

In addition to NOWEGIS, DOE released three other U.S. wind energy research reports this past month. There are 14 offshore wind energy projects with a total potential capacity of 4.9 GWs in advanced stages of development, according to Navigant Consulting's “Offshore Wind Market and Economic Analysis.”

In addition, DOE in September released the “2013 Wind Technologies Market Report,” which was produced by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the “2013 Distributed Wind Market Report,” which was produced by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

*All graphics credit: U.S. DOE