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The US hopes to compete with Europe and Asia with a massive floating offshore wind power plan.

The Block Island wind farm, photographed in 2016, is located off the east coast of the United States.

DON EMMERT | AFP | Getty Images

The White House said Thursday it plans to build 15 gigawatts of floating offshore wind power by 2035 as it looks to compete with Europe and Asia in the nascent sector.

“The Biden-Harris administration is beginning coordinated action to develop new floating offshore wind platforms, a new clean energy technology that will help the United States lead the way in offshore wind power,” the statement, which was also released by the U.S. Department of the Interior, said. .

The announcement says the 15 GW target will provide enough clean energy to power more than 5 million homes. It is based on the administration’s goal of reaching 30 GW of offshore wind power by 2030, an existing goal that will be largely achieved through fixed bottom installations.

Along with the 15 GW ambition, the Floating Offshore Wind Shot “will aim to reduce the cost of floating technology by more than 70% by 2035, to $45 per megawatt-hour,” the statement said.

“The scaling of floating offshore wind power technology will open up new opportunities for offshore wind power off the coast of California and Oregon, in the Gulf of Maine and beyond,” it said.

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Floating offshore wind turbines are different from fixed-bottom offshore wind turbines that are rooted on the seabed. One advantage of floating turbines is that they can be installed at much greater depths than fixed bottom turbines.

In a fact sheet outlining its plans, the US Department of Energy said that about two-thirds of America’s offshore wind power potential exists “above bodies of water too deep for ‘fixed-bottom’ wind turbine foundations anchored to the seafloor.”

“Using power over waters hundreds to thousands of feet deep requires floating offshore wind power — turbines mounted on a floating foundation or platform that is anchored to the seabed with mooring lines,” the report said. “These units are among the largest rotating machines ever built.”

In recent years, a number of large companies have ventured into floating offshore wind turbines.

Back in 2017, Norwegian energy company Equinor — a major player in the oil and gas industry — opened Hywind Scotland, a 30MW five-turbine facility it calls “the world’s first floating wind farm.”

The past year also saw a number of important developments in an emerging industry.

In August 2021, RWE Renewables and Kansai Electric Power signed an agreement under which the two businesses are “jointly exploring the possibility of implementing a large-scale floating offshore wind project” in waters off the coast of Japan.

Norwegian company Statkraft also announced a long-term agreement to buy a large floating offshore wind farm off the coast of Aberdeen, Scotland. And a few months later, in December 2021, plans were announced for three major offshore wind farms in Australia, two of which would include floating wind technology.

When it comes to offshore wind power more broadly, the US has a long way to go to catch up with Europe.

The nation’s first offshore wind farm, the 30 MW Block Island Wind Farm, only began commercial operation in late 2016.

For comparison, according to industry organization WindEurope, 17.4 GW of wind farms were installed in Europe in 2021.

However, change is coming, and in November 2021, a project called the US’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm was launched.


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