The US sees a big role for floating offshore wind

A floating offshore wind farm off the Portuguese coast. Photo credit: Principle Power.

By Anders Lorenzen

Having missed the boat on offshore wind, only joining the party decades after the first offshore wind farm was built in Denmark in 1992, the US is intent on not making the same mistake again with floating offshore wind, the relatively new technology still in its infancy.

This month, the Biden administration set out a plan to accelerate the development of next-generation floating offshore wind farms. To help accelerate the development, they will reduce the cost of the technology by 70% and have set a target for the technology to provide power to five million US homes by 2035.

Boosting the offshore wind industry

This is just one policy announced by the administration among a host of other energy policies aimed at boosting the US’s offshore wind industry.

The technology, which has been piloted in a variety of smaller test projects in several locations in Europe sees wind turbines floating in the sea without having their structure rooted in the seabed. This allows for them to be positioned far further into the ocean than traditional offshore wind farms.   

Areas off the coast of California, Oregon and Maine, where the depth of water precludes the use of standard fixed equipment, are some of the locations being considered for floating offshore wind farms.

White House national climate adviser, Gina McCarthy explained that the policy would enable the US: “to lead the world on floating offshore wind and bring offshore wind jobs to more parts of our country, including the West Coast.” 

The government aims to have 15 gigawatts (GW) of floating offshore wind capacity along its coastlines by 2035 as part of a wider goal to have 30 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030.

The Department of Energy has also committed $50 million to fund research, development and demonstration projects for floating offshore wind.

To kickstart the process, another government department, the Interior Department will hold a lease auction for areas off the coast of California later this year.

The floating offshore wind plan is part of the wider clean energy plan, ‘Energy Earthshots’ aiming to spur innovation in various clean energy technologies.

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