Feature

Boldly Pursuing Energy Opportunities With Offshore Wind

Flying out over the ocean, you might catch a glimpse of a renewable energy solution that is poised to turn the power industry on its head, create thousands of jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Offshore wind farms — turbines generating energy taken from the force of the wind out at sea — can be found along coasts around the world.


Many federal and state net zero initiatives, which aim to effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions as close as possible to zero, are driving efforts to increase offshore wind output. As a result of the ability to install larger turbines offshore, this renewable energy source has the potential to produce more electricity per unit than its installed solar and onshore wind turbine counterparts. The U.S. can position itself to become a global leader in renewable energy, with offshore wind at the core.

The global offshore wind market is expected to expand significantly over the next two decades, becoming a $1 trillion industry by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency. Such explosive growth means that offshore wind would make up nearly 10% of renewables-based energy globally. The U.S. has established a goal of generating 40 gigawatts from offshore wind by 2050, a dramatic increase from 42 megawatts of output in 2022. This significant jump will require coordination to achieve the permitting, design, construction, and operation and maintenance of offshore wind farms and the associated transmission systems required to get the electricity delivered to homes and businesses.

Conquering Challenges

Offshore wind farm developers must navigate the supply chain and procurement of key components needed. To service the growing renewable energy demand and ultimately meet the U.S. goal for 2050, the supply chain must be bolstered in a variety of ways, with one being the provision of more financial benefits for U.S. manufacturing companies. Because of financial backing for manufacturing companies through funding such as the new infrastructure law, developers are incentivized to be more interested in the U.S. supply chain as a viable option for developing offshore wind farms.

Additionally, there must be a clear connection between job creation and the benefits for communities manufacturing products for an offshore wind farm. Both are important. Installing wind turbines is a costly endeavor, and the benefits of the solution must be readily apparent for key decision-makers at the state and municipal levels.

 

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Many federal and state net zero initiatives, which aim to effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions as close as possible to zero, are driving efforts to increase offshore wind output. As a result of the ability to install larger turbines offshore, this renewable energy source has the potential to produce more electricity per unit than its installed solar and onshore wind turbine counterparts. The U.S. can position itself to become a global leader in renewable energy, with offshore wind at the core.

The global offshore wind market is expected to expand significantly over the next two decades, becoming a $1 trillion industry by 2040, according to the International Energy Agency. Such explosive growth means that offshore wind would make up nearly 10% of renewables-based energy globally. The U.S. has established a goal of generating 40 gigawatts from offshore wind by 2050, a dramatic increase from 42 megawatts of output in 2022. This significant jump will require coordination to achieve the permitting, design, construction, and operation and maintenance of offshore wind farms and the associated transmission systems required to get the electricity delivered to homes and businesses.

Conquering Challenges

Offshore wind farm developers must navigate the supply chain and procurement of key components needed. To service the growing renewable energy demand and ultimately meet the U.S. goal for 2050, the supply chain must be bolstered in a variety of ways, with one being the provision of more financial benefits for U.S. manufacturing companies. Because of financial backing for manufacturing companies through funding such as the new infrastructure law, developers are incentivized to be more interested in the U.S. supply chain as a viable option for developing offshore wind farms.

Additionally, there must be a clear connection between job creation and the benefits for communities manufacturing products for an offshore wind farm. Both are important. Installing wind turbines is a costly endeavor, and the benefits of the solution must be readily apparent for key decision-makers at the state and municipal levels.

“Offshore wind is part of the energy solution of the future, and the benefits the industry provides are invaluable,” says Jason Cabral, a vice president at Burns & McDonnell. “We are at a pivotal moment where decision-makers have the chance to embrace this renewable energy alternative. Offshore wind projects offer an opportunity to financially bolster our communities with high-paying technical and construction jobs and are critical to a tomorrow powered by clean energy.”

Such momentum is building, despite federal regulations that can make compliance and transportation logistics tricky for wind turbine installation. The Jones Act, a law mandating only U.S.-built and -operated vessels be utilized to move goods between U.S. ports — an offshore wind turbine is currently classified as a port — complicates matters. Given that the U.S. supply chain is still in development, components for the initial wind farms in development are being shipped around the world. These parts are often staged at countries outside the U.S. before being transported to the site of the offshore wind farm. Not only costly and time-consuming, the complex transportation process potentially delays shipments and creates lengthy project schedules. The U.S. offshore wind sector is beginning to establish its own fleet of Jones Act–compliant vessels, but this will take years to develop.

Looking to the Future

Burns & McDonnell is the engineer-procure-construct (EPC) contractor for the onshore substation and transmission line components of the PSEG and Ørsted Ocean Wind 1 Project, an offshore wind farm development in New Jersey aiming to deliver 1,100 megawatts of energy. The roughly $250 million portion of the project includes a strong commitment to local jobs with diverse companies in New Jersey, with construction slated to begin in September 2023.

“We have the opportunity to partner with offshore wind developers to create environmentally conscious solutions with offshore wind,” says Tony Appleton, offshore wind director at Burns & McDonnell. “In addition to the clean energy generated from offshore wind turbines, careful planning throughout every phase of a project is crucial to minimizing carbon emissions.”

Investments into electrifying port cranes, cargo handling equipment, drayage trucks and processes on-site can help lower a port’s carbon footprint and thus reduce greenhouse gas emissions from an offshore wind project overall. New offshore wind vessels are in development that are moving away from the traditional diesel engine technology and moving toward electric, hybrid and hydrogen technology, all of which are helping to reduce the carbon footprint of offshore wind further still.

The environmental benefits of using offshore wind technology are hard to ignore in pursuit of viable solutions to achieve net zero objectives. Offshore wind has the potential to be a game changer in the energy industry. With vast expanses of sea available for potential wind farm development, offshore wind stands out as a potent source of renewable energy.

Thought Leaders

Tony Appleton

Director of Offshore Wind
Burns & McDonnell

Jason Cabral, PE

Vice President
Burns & McDonnell