UK implications of the US Floating Wind Shot

The announcement of a ‘shot’ for floating offshore wind this week led me to think of the consequences as the United States announced a statement of intent with a target of a 70% reduction in the cost of floating wind by 2035.

Something similar emerged last year with their hydrogen ‘shot’ and an ambition of one kilogramme of hydrogen for $1 in one decade, was announced.

So, what does this mean?

The announcement represents a statement of intent that the United States intends to be a world leader in the nascent sector of floating offshore wind.

This in turns means that the current world leaders, namely the UK may find themselves under considerable pressure. Here in the UK, two recent floating wind announcements encompassed the 15-gigawatt Scotwind announcement in January, following a three year delay and augmented by the Celtic-sea and a four gigawatt announcement this summer, both of  which are focussed on the floating sector.

The Americans, however, don’t intend to do things by halves and spending a week with Boem a few years ago, one of the background discussions we had involved a potential for 4000 gigawatts of offshore wind in its various forms off the US coast

Since the US election, this bone has moved the agenda forward rapidly with leasing rounds in the New York bight and elsewhere. The bidding figures for the New-york-bight came in over four times those for the Scotwind leasing round, held around the same time, and perhaps indicated where investors see the future

BOEM is moving the offshore wind sector ahead and focussing on stakeholder engagement in a thorough, transparent and pragmatic basis with best practice being followed throughout.  Leasing rounds in California, New York, the Carolinas, the Gulf of Mexico a leading contender for floating wind.

We’ve seen turbines move from two megawatts to 10, 12 and even 15 MW going forwards, and this has led to a corresponding reduction in cost.

Prices in the recent UK leasing round came in under 40. pounds per megawatt hour, something that even insiders, such as me, thought was impossible not so very long ago.

Further, the size of the schemes themselves leads to further economies of scale with schemes regularly topping one gigawatt and above. This is complemented by innovation and also by the early engagement key stakeholders such as grid, with their holistic planning for a future based around renewables, offshore wind and floating offshore wind.

The recent integration of hydrogen in the Celtic seas, Germany and elsewhere, is another welcomed development on one that Boem in the United States is  aware of this development going forwards.

On the downside, one of the risks is that some of the impetus gained in the UK in particular may or may migrate to the United States, states and impacts such organisations such as the tax payer funded offshore renewable energy catapult which seems to be leading the way with regard to some of the elements such as moorings and cabling, specifically outlined in the United States with many of the work packages seeming to duplicate and Americanise their efforts:


Recent leasing rounds in Brazil where figures of over 700 megawatts. gigawatts of floating wind are in the public domain.

The Philippines Australia and India demonstrate global interest and indicate that although the 15 gigawatts in the UK is welcome, it’s actually being dwarfed in terms of scale globally.

The supply chain prize therefore remains to be had and although the UK has indeed a lead, it’s in danger of being passed the baton being passed across the United States where the global scale can be tapped into.

On the positive side for the UK, there does seem to be more all-party support for the floating and indeed wind sector and the United States.

Although many schemes are now looking at 10 or even 15 MW floating machines, recent announcements indicate that these may be dwarfed with contra rotational machines entering the public domain, although regulations regarding stability may need to be amended if these eye-popping devices with figures of up to 40 MW per turbines are to reach real world projects

Although these developments are welcome, as we saw from the previous regime may find itself coming to something of a juddering halt that remains to be seen.

It’s a great thing for the floating offshore wind sector, that such shots are being announced with signs of commitment and detail from the States. How it will impact the world leader – the UK – which gained a sector deal on the back of a successful offshore wind industry  remains to be seen.

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