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DOE seeks to reduce offshore wind energy costs as new projects advance


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DOE seeks to reduce offshore wind energy costs as new projects advance

The U.S. Department of Energy wants to cut in half the levelized cost of energy from offshore wind farms by 2030, it said in a new five-year research plan.

Release of the plan comes as Democratic President-elect Joe Biden prepares to take office, ushering in a new era for federal clean energy policy. Biden's campaign platform said he would accelerate research and development for clean energy technologies "on a scale well beyond the Apollo program." A recent congressional COVID-19 relief package included billions in federal research funds for renewable energy.

"A nascent offshore wind industry is beginning to develop — driven by federal offshore wind lease auctions, complementary state policies, technology innovation and falling wind turbine prices — but [it is] challenged by unique characteristics of U.S. waters," said the plan, issued by the Wind Energy Technologies Office, part of DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

The plan calls for federal research funding to slash the cost of electricity from floating offshore wind turbines to seven cents/kWh, down from 13.5 cents/kWh in 2020.

Floating platforms will be needed for offshore wind off the West Coast, where the waters are significantly deeper than those on the East Coast. Developers are hopeful that floating technology will present fewer construction costs because platforms can be built onshore, and researchers have said such technology can be commercialized in the U.S. in the next few years.

The research plan, which covers 2021 through 2025, also aims to reduce the cost of energy from fixed-bottom offshore wind to five cents/kWh in the next decade, down from 8.6 cents/kWh in 2020.

The plan outlines advances needed to accomplish those reductions, including turbine scaling, advanced manufacturing, improved plant design, and progress in the science of atmospheric and oceanographic conditions.

Offshore projects advance

Twelve states have recently made power purchase commitments for 28.9 GW for offshore wind installations on the East Coast, the report said, 6.5 GW of which will be in operation by 2025.

The U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has leased out 16 different commercial wind energy areas and is exploring new leases in waters off California's coastline,.

On Jan. 5, the bureau released a draft environmental impact statement for Eversource Energy and Ørsted A/S's proposed Deepwater Offshore Wind Energy Center (South Fork Wind Farm), which calls for up to 12 MW of capacity located roughly 19 miles southeast of Block Island, Rhode Island.

The agency was expected to release this month a final decision for the proposed 800-MW Vineyard Offshore Wind Project, which would be the first major offshore wind farm in federal waters. But in December the company behind the project in December unexpectedly withdrew its construction and operations plan, and BOEM said it cannot make a decision until a new plan is filed. That project, which has faced multiple permitting delays, is a joint venture of Avangrid Inc. subsidiary Avangrid Renewables LLC and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners K/S. Avangrid is a subsidiary of Iberdrola SA of Spain.