Tax credits are providing extra incentive to build out the offshore wind supply chain in the US. Existing credits for offshore wind projects are being extended and expanded by the Inflation Reduction Act, with as much as 40% available on the cost of building a new wind farm. However, to qualify for the full tax credit, projects will need to use domestically sourced materials. Strengthening the supply chain for those materials will be a long process, and the industry is still trying to adjust to existing conditions.
Still, there are some significant signs of progress for US offshore wind. The nation’s second large-scale offshore wind farm began producing electricity in early January. Several areas of seafloor are expected to go up for auction for new development in 2024, including sites in the central Atlantic and off the coast of Oregon. Sites off the coast of Maine are expected to be offered up the following year.
But even that forward momentum may not be enough for the nation to meet its offshore wind goals. While the Biden administration has set a target of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity installed by the end of the decade, BloombergNEF’s projection is that the country will likely install around half that, with 16.4 gigawatts of capacity expected by 2030.
While economic considerations will likely be a limiting factor in offshore wind this year, we’re also going to be on the lookout for technological developments in the industry.
Wind turbines still follow the same blueprint from decades ago, but they are being built bigger and bigger, and that trend is expected to continue. That’s because bigger turbines tend to be more efficient, capturing more energy at a lower cost.
A decade ago, the average offshore wind turbine produced an output of around 4 megawatts. In 2022, that number was just under 8 MW. Now, the major turbine manufacturers are making models in the 15 MW range. These monstrous structures are starting to rival the size of major landmarks, with recent installations nearing the height of the Eiffel Tower.
In 2023, the wind giant Vestas tested a 15 MW model, which earned the distinction of being the world’s most powerful wind turbine. The company received certification for the design at the end of the year, and it will be used in a Danish wind farm that’s expected to begin construction in 2024.