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White House Aims to Cut Cost of Floating Offshore Wind by 70 Percent

floating wind
File image courtesy Principle Power

Published Sep 16, 2022 7:16 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Biden administration has announced a new initiative to radically reduce the cost of floating offshore wind, a technology that will be key to developing the wind energy potential of the U.S. West Coast's deep waters. The plan is part of the administration's new goal to see 15 gigawatts worth of floating offshore wind capacity installed in U.S. waters by 2035. 

Most of the world's offshore wind potential is located in water depths that are too great for bottom-fixed foundations. Floating turbine platforms have a much greater tolerance for depth, but their cost is substantially higher. Bringing that cost down will be a priority as the Biden administration gears up for developing the top-grade wind resources off Northern California and Southern Oregon. 

The Department of Energy's newly-announced "Floating Offshore Wind Energy Shot" seeks to reduce the cost of floating offshore wind energy by at least 70 percent - to $45 per megawatt-hour - by 2035. The audacious target would make floating offshore wind cost-competitive with other generating sources. 

To help get there, DOE has launched a seed funding prize competition. The new FLoating Offshore Wind ReadINess (FLOWIN) Prize is a three-phase, $6.85 million investment in domestic manufacturing and deployment of commercial-scale floating offshore wind in U.S. waters. The prize is intended to encourage collaboration, help adapt platform designs to fit the specifics of U.S. manufacturing and transport, and better prepare ports, vessel operators and manufacturers for the new opportunity. The first phase is open for submissions and closes on January 13.

The R&D initiative is part of the administration's newly-announced goal to see 15 GW of floating wind capacity installed by 2035 - on top of the 30 GW of bottom-fixed wind capacity it would like to develop by 2030. The White House suggests that this would save about 25 million tonnes of CO2 per year if achieved. The Department of the Interior will move toward leasing floating offshore wind sites off California beginning the end of this year, opening up the first West Coast commercial sites for development.