The offshore wind industry has had no shortage of exciting announcements of late.
On Thursday, developers hosted a groundbreaking for the first commercial-scale offshore wind project in the U.S, and plans are already in motion to build the country’s first blade finishing facility at the Port of Virginia.
But to meet ambitious state and federal goals — President Biden wants to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind generating capacity by 2030 — these victories will need to become more frequent for the immature U.S. market to blossom.
State leaders say the shared challenges surrounding transmission, interconnection, supply chain logistics, workforce development, and environmental protection necessitate that states collaborate on offshore wind deployment and policies.
“We’re at the early days of this — it’s a little bit of a gold rush mentality. So, we all need to be on guard as policymakers of the conflicting priorities that we’re going to be handed,” said Bob Brabston, executive director of the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. “Everybody wants to be number one, but none of us can go it alone. So, you’ve got to strike that balance.”
Brabston participated in a panel discussion about how states can collaborate to spur the growth of offshore wind in the U.S., alongside leaders from Virginia, Massachusetts, Maine, and Maryland. The webcast was part of the 2021 National Offshore Wind R&D Symposium.
The Special Initiative on Offshore Wind within the University of Delaware estimates, conservatively, that reaching the Biden administration’s 30 GW offshore wind goal will require private sector investment of $109 billion by 2030. The estimate does not include investments needed in port infrastructure and offshore wind construction vessels, however.
Jennifer Palestrant, chief deputy of the Virginia Dept. of Energy, added that there is “plenty to go around” for states to cooperate on filling gaps in the offshore wind supply chain, instead of offering duplicative resources.
Massachusetts, to its credit, is working closely with Rhode Island and Connecticut on offshore wind supply chain initiatives, while participating in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Gulf of Maine Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force. The state will also be home to the first purpose-built port for the offshore wind industry.
On top off commonly-shared issues of transmission, interconnection, and supply chain logistics across the renewable energy sector, Jennifer Daloisio, interim CEO of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, remains focused on workforce development opportunities and challenges.
An offshore wind workforce report released by MassCEC in September found that 37% of the offshore wind supply chain has sufficient workers to meet anticipated demand, while 27% have a moderate gap and 36% have a significant in-state workforce gap. The state is “most prepared to meet science, engineering, management, and maritime needs, while least prepared to meet construction and assembly needs,” the report found.
“With Vineyard Wind starting construction, we’re really making sure that we have a well-trained, local workforce as much as possible,” Daloisio said.
Whether collaboration centers around ports and manufacturing or workforce development and policy, state leaders highlight the importance of partnerships for a young industry.
Celina Cunningham with the State of Maine Governor’s Energy Office has found that some of the most productive conversations between states occur informally.
“I can’t overestimate how important those are between the states,” Cunningham said during the offshore wind symposium.
The product of those conversations, Cunningham added that New England governors will be releasing a joint vision statement on offshore wind sometime soon, and are finding opportunities to coordinate on wholesale energy systems and transmission.