Perhaps to the consternation of President Trump, interest in the U.S. offshore wind industry shows no signs of slowing.
Earlier this week two companies submitted bids to develop a wind project off the coast of Maryland, jumpstarting offshore wind discussions in that state and setting the stage for a competitive award process.
One offer for a modest 15-turbine project came from a subsidiary of Deepwater Wind, the Rhode Island firm that built the nation’s first offshore wind farm in the waters off Block Island last year. Another 124-turbine proposal came from a subsidiary of Toto Holding, an Italian conglomerate. Both companies are vying for a subsidy from the state government that will cover a portion of the project’s total cost.
“This is the most important milestone in a very long process,” Liz Burdock, director of the Business Network for Offshore Wind, told Energywire. “We’re happy that there is competition for the award.”
State regulators are holding public hearings before choosing a winner.
The competition in Maryland comes on the heels of two firms asking the federal government to open up more areas for offshore wind development in the Northeast.
The unsolicited request came from German developer PNE Wind and Norway’s Statoil, which want to build projects off the coasts of Massachusetts and New York.
Statoil recently won a two-day bidding war for a separate project, paying $42 million for the rights to develop a facility in waters off New York City. The federal government has awarded 11 other such leases to date.
Interest in offshore wind is being fueled by rapidly falling costs as firms design ever-larger turbines that can more efficiently turn strong ocean winds into electricity. Larger firms— including oil giants like Royal Dutch Shell — with easier access to capital and a growing expertise in anchoring the massive turbines to the sea floor are helping to lead the way.
“I do believe you can build offshore wind at least at the same price as new build coal in many places around the world including the U.S.,” Henrik Poulsen, chief executive officer of Denmark’s Dong Energy, told Bloomberg News earlier this month.
It remains to be seen whether the Trump administration will continue the previous administration’s friendly stance towards offshore wind. Any wind proposal in federal waters will need federal approval.
Trump has been hostile to offshore wind in the past. He called an offshore wind farm proposed near one of his golf courses in Scotland a “monstrous” blight on the landscape and sued to stop the project.
Yet the economic benefits of a thriving offshore wind industry may be too great for the president to ignore.
In the Mid-Atlantic region alone, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that an expanded offshore wind industry could support more than 42,000 construction jobs, nearly 20,000 operation and maintenance jobs and create more than $9.4 billion in economic output by 2030.
Steve Hargreaves writes for Nexus Media, a syndicated newswire covering climate, energy, policy, art and culture. You can follow him at @shargrea.