Liz Burdock, Executive Director, Business Network for Offshore Wind
When we announced that we were putting on our first full-day training sessions for offshore wind energy, we knew that some people would say: “Offshore Wind? Why do I need to learn about that now? It doesn’t really even exist yet.”
That is true, in a sense. In the U.S., we do only have 5 offshore wind turbines spinning off the coast of Block Island. But if you pull further back to a global perspective, you see that northern Europe has been building wind farms since 1991, and they now have a total installed offshore wind capacity of 15,780 MW. This corresponds to 4,149 grid-connected wind turbines across 11 countries, with much more to come in the near future.
And once they got rolling and hit a certain tipping point, Denmark, Germany, the UK, and other countries saw their offshore wind projects scale up quickly—in some cases too quickly for some of their support systems to keep up with them.
We in the U.S. can learn from their experience, but only if we make good plans and good decisions today, which will affect what we can build in the next 10 to 15 years. And that’s why we are starting with two deep-immersion offshore wind technical sessions in 2018 in two of our most active states, New Jersey and Maryland.
The industry has taught us that it takes years to complete certain key elements of offshore wind: cables must be ordered years in advance; land-based electrical substations can take several years to be approved and built; and a skilled labor force of steel workers, carpenters, pile drivers, assemblers, divers and more can require 3 or more years to fully develop and prepare for these massive projects.
These training sessions, titled “Foundation to Blade: A Complete Offshore Wind Training,” provide the potential offshore supply chain workforce with a gateway into the technical issues involved in manufacturing, staging, installation, and operations and maintenance (O&M) of the wind turbines and their support systems.
Our hope is that, supplemented by the international experience of our European developers, these courses will open the door to more state-sponsored and regional specialized training programs to meet the needs of offshore wind projects up and down the Eastern Seaboard, so that when our skilled labor force is needed, they are ready. Click here to learn more about the training sessions http://www.offshorewindus.org/training.
The discussion on workforce development will continue in several sessions at our upcoming International Offshore Wind Partnering Forum (IPF) in April, and in additional trainings scheduled for later this year.