US offshore wind: pipeline or pipe dream?

At the launch of the AWEA Offshore Windpower conference (22-23 October) in Massachusetts, Windpower Intelligence data shows the potential -- but improbable -- pipeline facing the US industry between 2020 and 2026.

The US has been stranded on 30MW of operating offshore wind capacity for almost three years -- but not for much longer (pic: Ørsted)

According to the database, the US could have as much as 18.45GW of offshore wind capacity installed by the end of 2026, up from the 30MW operating today off Rhode Island.

The US has been stuck with just the Block Island project since the end of 2016. Almost three years after its much-lauded entry into the offshore wind sector, not a single new turbine has been added.

There has been plenty of action on the land however, with a number of states gearing up to go big on offshore. New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia have approved projects, passed legislation, or procured capacity in a sign of confidence in the sector.

Meanwhile, some of the industry’s biggest developers have formed partnerships in an attempt to corner their share of the lucrative market.

As with any competitive market framework, some of this capacity will not be built.

State budgets and transmission operators won’t be able to cope — but the tables do show the US is set for a rapid expansion and what a perfect world could create.

Massachusetts has got a march on the competition with a potential 7GW of capacity in development if the full capacity is realised.

New Jersey will also be an offshore wind powerhouse by 2026 — under current plans — with around 4.5GW of potential capacity if entirely fulfilled.

It shows the appetite is high in the US, even if permitting red tape, which has ended projects before, and is holding up sites now, remains constrictive.

That, along with the questions of grid integration, vessel supply and local supply chains will be top of the agenda at AWEA’s conference this week.