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Offshore Wind Technology: Innovation in the US

The US is taking major steps to increase energy efficiency and move towards renewable energy, with offshore wind seen as a key solution in the energy transition. Currently, there is considerable pressure to implement offshore wind technologies across the US but this is not driven by increase in demand for electricity – which the Energy Information Administration (EIA) projects will have an average annual growth rate of only 1% until 2050. So, what is driving offshore wind innovation in the US?

Policy and Market Pressure

One of the major drivers is the regulatory framework established by both state and federal governments. The US has implemented offshore wind targets of 30 gigawatts (GW) by 2030, and in this past year alone, long-term offshore wind energy targets set by states rose by 79%. Although the project pipeline in the US has reached 40 GW, only 42 MW of offshore wind power have been installed and are fully operational. In order to realistically reach these targets, the US needs to increase the energy efficiency of its offshore wind farms by advancing technology and investing in innovation.

Technical drivers, such as environmental factors, also have an impact on innovation in US offshore wind technology. Two-thirds of US offshore wind potential is in water deeper than 60 meters, which requires floating turbine platform technology.

In order to take full advantage of its currently untapped wind resources in these deep waters, the US is looking to advance its floating offshore wind capabilities.

Floating Foundations

The development of floating technology is being led by the government with three initiatives:

• the New Floating Offshore Wind Shot,

• the new goal to reach 15GW of floating wind by 2035, and

• research and development (R&D) investments.

The Floating Offshore Wind Shot is a new initiative to drive US leadership in floating offshore wind design, development and manufacturing, and it includes an ambitious goal to reduce the cost of floating offshore wind energy in the US by more than 70%, to $45 per megawatt-hour by 2035.

The Department of Energy (DOE) will invest $50 million in research, development and demonstration projects for floating offshore wind. Research and development initiatives include President Biden’s prize competition, FLoating Offshore Wind ReadINess Prize (FLOWIN), for floating offshore wind platform technologies looking to advance designs for manufacturing, improve supply chain readiness to enable mass production and assembly in the United States, and lower associated costs and risks. The FLOWIN total prize pool is $5.75 million, plus up to $1.1 million in vouchers for technical support from DOE national laboratories.

Another initiative driving innovation is the Floating Offshore Wind Array Design Project, a $3 million project funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to develop a set of modeling tools. This will help industry and researchers design commercial scale floating offshore wind farm arrays in US waters, including their anchors, mooring lines, and subsea power cables.

Advancing floating wind technology and addressing key challenges will be critical for the development of offshore wind farms in the US. A key challenge for both floating and fixed offshore wind in the US is the lack of supporting domestic supply chain.

Supply Chain

Although the Federal and state governments have created a strong pipeline of planned projects and procurement targets, the domestic supply chain needs to be built out to support fixed and floating offshore wind plans.

Expansion of the domestic supply chain will help decrease project costs and prevent construction delays and cost overruns for developers in the US. Key components and subcomponents such as wind turbine generators and cable materials are not supplied in the US so developers must import these components, increasing overall project costs. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), existing international manufacturing facilities will not have the sufficient capacity for the US and global demand.

Without a domestic supply chain, project and construction delays are a real risk.
To mitigate these risks, the government implemented laws such as the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The IRA was passed to incentivize domestic manufacturing of offshore wind energy components, good-paying union jobs, and positive impacts on “energy communities” (communities previously dependent on fossil-fuel employment or infrastructure).

The law extends tax credits for clean energy projects and makes their full value contingent on labor practices, including paying prevailing wages and using qualified workers from registered apprenticeship programs. The law also offers bonus credits for projects that meet domestic content thresholds and/or are located in energy communities. More significantly, the law offers tax credits for the US manufacturing of certain wind components.

The IRA’s incentives can help make domestic components cost competitive with imported ones and ultimately lead to the construction of new offshore wind facilities in the US. Tax credits and low costs in the US will help build out the domestic supply chain and increase investments within the US.

Vessel Availability

A large component of the offshore wind supply chain is vessel supply. Vessels are essential to the development, installation and commissioning of offshore wind farms so ensuring vessel availability in the US in the coming years is instrumental to achieving its offshore wind targets, as well as preventing project delays and cost overruns. According to the NREL, 58 transfer crew vessels, 11 service operation vessels (SOVs), 4-8 transport vessels, 4-6 wind turbine installation vessels, 4 cable lay vessels, 2 scour protection installation vessels, 4-6 heavy lift vessels and numerous smaller vessels are needed to deploy 30GW of offshore wind energy by 2030 in the US. As of now, there are no wind turbine installation vessels or heavy lift vessels in the US.

Jack-up installation vessel

Not only is there high demand for these types of vessels globally, but the Jones Act adds to the challenges of vessel supply for US projects. The Jones Act is a US federal law that requires all goods transported by water between two points within the United States to be carried on US-flagged ships that are built, owned, and crewed by US citizens.

The Jones Act has a significant impact on offshore wind activities in US waters because it requires vessels used to transport equipment, personnel, and supplies between US ports to be US-built, owned, and operated. This can limit the availability of suitable vessels and therefore increase risk for project developers. The current number of US-flagged vessels suitable for this type of work is limited and therefore project developers face a difficult obstacle with quite a hefty price given the low supply and high demand.

In response to this challenge, the US Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) has launched a program to support the development of US-flagged vessels that can be used for offshore wind projects. This program provides loan guarantees and other financial assistance to support the construction of new vessels and the retrofitting of existing vessels to meet the unique needs of offshore wind projects.

Dominion Energy is building the first US-flagged wind turbine installation vessel that will be one of the largest of its class. Within the SOV sector, Edison-Chouest is building two new SOVs that will be the first Jones Act compliant of their kind. On the other hand, since building a new vessel costs hundreds of millions of dollars, some developers and shipbuilders are opting to repurpose vessels that are already US-flagged but currently at use in other sectors. Otto-Candies announced two conversions of their vessels traditionally used for the oil and gas market to be used as service operation vessels. The company has stated that minimal conversions are needed to their vessels for them to be suitable to work within offshore wind.


The US has the opportunity to exceed in offshore wind development as it continues to innovate and develop offshore wind technology. The government has created opportunities within the offshore wind sector for new entry and for key stakeholders to grow within the industry. ABL Group and affiliated companies help stakeholders grow their businesses and take full advantage of these opportunities with our expertise and knowledge.

ABL Group along with Longitude and OWC, can support the delivery of offshore wind projects at every stage of a project or asset’s lifecycle. We bring experience gained during more than three decades consulting in the energy and marine sector, ABL Group has been an independent and impartial partner to many of the major developments in offshore wind development over the last two decades. Contact our offices to learn more about how we support offshore wind development.