It only took them a quarter-century after the first offshore wind installation in Denmark, but European fossils like Statoil and Royal Dutch Shell are now taking an interest in offshore projects in the U.S. that build on their experience with deepwater development.
Statoil “has won a licence to develop a wind farm off the New York coast, is marketing its new floating turbine to California and Hawaii, and is retraining some oil and gas staff to work in its wind division,” Reuters reports. Shell is bidding on a lease off North Carolina, while DONG Energy—which announced in May that it would unload its oil and gas assets—holds a lease off New Jersey and has joined an offshore wind consortium in Massachusetts.
Offshore wind development began in the United States, ironically enough, after last year’s election brought a climate denier and noted wind turbine adversary to the White House. But “a string of federal seabed leases was awarded before Trump took office and more are planned,” Reuters explains. “Washington estimates its potential at 2,000 gigawatts (GW), many times anticipated capacity in Europe of 25 GW by 2020, but U.S. federal subsidies expire at the end of 2019 and while they may be renewed by Congress, that is no means certain.”
Then again, those subsidies may not be needed for much longer. “Costs in Europe have fallen to a level that enabled DONG to place a zero-subsidy bid earlier this year, but offshore wind farms are still multi-billion-dollar projects,” the news agency notes. “A push into deeper U.S. waters and the bigger turbines needed to compete without subsidies will keep price tags high.”
The Reuters post suggests the companies now investing in offshore wind in the U.S. are looking to the long haul. “As excited as we are for offshore wind in the U.S., we are still in the early days of the industry,” said Thomas Bostrom, North America wind power president at DONG.