Liz Burdock, Executive Director, Business Network for Offshore Wind
There is a consensus among the U.S. offshore wind energy industry that establishing and growing an offshore wind supply chain is critical, and it’s important to understand how large the supply chain actually is and what the opportunities are for U.S. companies to participate in the complex process of constructing a wind farm of 60 or more huge turbines, 10 miles offshore in 90 or more feet of water.
Offshore wind energy projects typically require hundreds of different products and components as well as a diverse range of specialist support services used at the different stages of deployment, but they fall into five loosely chronological stages:
- Design—site assessments, testing, environmental assessment
- Turbine Manufacturing—gear boxes, blades, hydraulics, electrical work, rotors
- Non-Turbine Facilities—towers, cables, foundations
- Construction—vessels, divers, heavy lifting, logistics, lighting
- Operation & Maintenance—inspection, monitoring, safety, painting/coating
The developers—companies like Orsted, U.S. Wind, Deepwater Wind, Statoil, Avangrid—are the managers of the process, acting like a general contractor on a construction site. They tend to be European because Europe has been building offshore wind since 1991, and they work closely with major manufacturers like MHI Vestas, GE, and Siemens-Gamesa. For example, when the new GE Halliade-X 12 GW turbines are ready for use in 2021, the 351-foot blades will be floated across the Atlantic from France to the U.S. East Coast, where they will be attached to the turbine towers on-site.
For the industry to flourish here in the U.S., the trick is to get as many American companies engaged with developers as quickly as possible, so we build up our manufacturing and assembly capabilities and our skilled labor force, and gradually take over from the Europeans as we create our own domestic supply chain made up of hundreds of companies known as Tier 1, Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers.
And there is a great deal of potential business involved. The deployment of wind energy is expected to accelerate over the next decade from the present $100+ million in investments to over $300 billion in 2020. A total potential capacity of over 54GW of wind energy generation is currently being planned in the U.S., with a total capital investment of over $1.5 trillion by 2030. This will create major opportunities for American companies supplying equipment and services across the supply chain.
Our job at the Business Network for Offshore Wind (the Network) is to help these companies come together so projects move forward and the U.S. supply chain can grow.