McKinsey & Co.

Scaling the US East Coast offshore wind industry to 20 gigawatts and beyond

Offshore wind is poised to become a major source of power for the most densely populated area of the United States. Nine building blocks are needed to meet growth milestones and successfully scale the industry.

States along the US East Coast have bold targets to deploy more than 10 GW of offshore wind (OSW) capacity by 2030. While behind industry development in Europe, which already has close to 19 GW installed and aims to have more than 60 GW by 2030, it is nonetheless a momentous development for the industry, especially considering the region’s potential.

The push for OSW in the region is part of a broader effort to increase the share of renewable energy in the power mix, displace fossil-based energy resources, and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. For example, New York State has set a target of generating 50 percent of its energy from renewable energy sources and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent by 2030, relative to 1990 levels. Similarly, Massachusetts pledged to cut its emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

OSW is likely to be an important component of the region’s future energy agenda. The US East Coast is one of the most promising regions for OSW. It consists of more than 1,200 miles of coastline, spanning from Maine to North Carolina, which boasts excellent offshore wind resources in proximity to areas of high demand for power.

This positive landscape has led states to embrace even more ambitious goals. New York State increased its target from 2.4 GW by 2030 to 9 GW by 2035, and other states are likely to follow suit. As a result, 10 GW is likely to quickly become the “floor” of OSW capacity in the region. With such commitments in place, it’s more important than ever for stakeholders to ensure that the region is equipped to deliver on the promise of OSW.

For this to happen, all the elements needed to scale the industry must be in place. And while some areas are on track, others present cause for concern. In this article, we assess the OSW industry’s ability to meet growth milestones along the US East Coast while continuing to reduce costs and enhance the competitiveness of OSW relative to incumbent sources of power.

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