Before we leap into 2019, it is worth – after a truly amazing few months – looking back at all the US offshore wind industry has achieved in 2018. It has been a staggering year in which the sector has transformed itself from a relatively small niche player to a billion-dollar business with what is now a clearly demonstrated ability to transform the nation’s energy landscape.
Secretary Zinke spoke at the close of the American Wind Energy Association offshore wind conference in DC last week and used the occasion to make a few announcements. But before he got there, he started by saying “Environmentally, the world is changing” and then adding “I’m bullish on wind”. He also talked about the offshore wind industry and said that one of its greatest attributes is its youth which brings with it fresh minds and new approaches to problem solving.
Massachusetts electricity users will save about $1.4-bn over 20 years from America’s first, large-scale, offshore wind project according to a letter released yesterday by the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources.
The price, of $64.97/MWh, from the winning bidder – Copenhagen Offshore Partners – was very much lower than anyone expected. What was also striking was the dramatic price drop in only a few years: the Block Island project (America’s first offshore wind farm) went live in late 2016 with a delivered electricity price of $244/MWh i.e. a 73% price decline in less than 5 years.
There has been a lot of great news since the end of 2017, but just since the end of May we have seen 800 MW off Massachusetts, 400 MW off Rhode Island and 200 MW off Connecticut: amounts which would have been inconceivable as little as one year ago.
BOEM is conducting a high-level review of all waters off the US Eastern seaboard for potential offshore wind sites. BOEM also published a call for information for new lease areas in the New York Bight and, finally, Secretary Zinke announced new lease auctions off Massachusetts, before the end of this year, for as much as 4,000 megawatts of wind.
The last 15 years have been the Golden Age of Gas but the next 15 are shaping up for something else altogether. The reason is that, since 2000, Eastern seaboard power generation has been characterized by a marked shift from coal- to gas-fired power generation. That shift has driven average regional power sector emissions well below those of natural gas and has also made the region excessively dependent on natural gas for electricity generation. Great economics mean the East Coast is poised on the threshold of a Golden Age of Offshore Wind.