Built to Scale: Growing Gusts for the Offshore Wind Industry at NECEC Emerging Trends Series Forum

At long last, the U.S. offshore wind industry is poised to start scaling up in the Northeast. With ambitious procurement targets established in multiple states and the first RFPs under development, prominent developers and government leaders are now working together to ready the region for the supply chain and workforce needed to sustain the nascent market. Though the work is just getting started, everyone agrees: “We’re going to be doing a gigawatt before we know it.”

At NECEC’s latest Emerging Trends Series forum on May 11, leaders from industry and the public sector convened to discuss the many ins and outs of preparing the region for a full-scale offshore build-out. Co-hosted with NECEC Platinum Sponsor Foley Hoag, the forum featured representatives from the three companies developing projects in federal lease waters off Massachusetts’ coast, as well as supply chain manufacturers, and public officials from Massachusetts and New York. Despite competing interests both among companies and among states, all panelists recognized the importance of collaboration in pursuit of a virtuous cycle: more megawatts (MW) of demand from states, leading to more in-region investment, leading to more jobs and reduced costs for future procurements, leading to even more demand from states.

Attendees heard first-hand accounts of the industry outlook and current focus from the three developers planning to bid into the first round of Massachusetts’ offshore wind procurement: Bay State Wind (DONG Energy and Eversource), Vineyard Wind (Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid), and Deepwater Wind. All three companies reaffirmed their belief that the fundamentals for offshore wind in the Northeast are extremely strong: high wind speeds, shallow waters, and large loads close to shore, not to mention a strong and growing appetite for clean energy.

Massachusetts and New York public officials are busy laying the groundwork to allow the industry to flourish. Stephen Pike, CEO of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), outlined several priorities for his agency in the near and long term. In the near term MassCEC is bringing supply chain parties together for a day of development on May 31 and will be conducting a port and infrastructure study to identify the best sites and opportunities for investment in the region.  New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) Director of Large Scale Renewables, Doreen Harris, similarly shared New York’s vision and plan to ensure that the state’s 2,400MW goal is met with cost-effective, responsible, and appropriately sited offshore wind projects. Harris also previewed that New York would be proposing additional lease areas to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in the fall, with hopes of spurring additional solicitations.

The buzz and excitement of attendees and the robust discussion made  it clear that the region stands to benefit tremendously from the jobs and workforce development that the offshore wind supply chain will bring. In the near term, as demand for turbines, towers, and sub-components crystallizes, the arrival of in-region factories will, needless to say, drive substantial manufacturing jobs in New England and New York. And in the long run, the ongoing operations and maintenance needs for the projects that go online will be an even bigger boost for employment and economic development.

The Northeast may still have a long way to go before it can rival European project scale and pricing. But, with factories, vessels, two-digit turbines, and a domestic supply chain now squarely in sight, Massachusetts, New York, and other states are ready to make the jump to the big leagues. Safe to say that the offshore wind games in the Northeast has officially begun.

Check out this video of the full Emerging Trends Series discussion on Offshore Wind.

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Jamie Dickerson

Jamie Dickerson is NECEC's Policy Analyst.