Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. Getty Images

USA - Biden admin details plans for floating wind

The Biden administration announced initiatives yesterday to prepare states for floating offshore wind — a young but fast-emerging type of power that some say could revolutionize renewables on the West Coast.

The plans from the White House, Department of Energy and other federal agencies include a 20-month study on how to build out transmission networks that would link the West Coast’s grid to first-of-their-kind floating wind projects. That study — led by DOE — would be funded by $100 million from the Inflation Reduction Act, federal officials said. The Pacific Northwest National Laboratory also released a major report assessing how to build transmission for floating offshore wind on the West Coast, where deep waters make traditional offshore wind prohibitive.

“We are positioning ourselves not just to catch up and seize the lead, but really to forge the frontier of a new technology,” said Ali Zaidi, national climate adviser, during a summit on floating wind that was convened by DOE as well as the Interior, Commerce and Transportation departments.

DOE also announced that California, which has the biggest state-level goals for floating wind, would be the first West Coast member of the seven-state National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium, which carries out department-funded research into challenges for offshore wind. The state’s presence in the consortium will infuse it with a new focus on floating technologies, particularly ways of slashing their costs, according to DOE.

Separately, California said it was joining another Biden-backed initiative known as the Federal-State Offshore Wind Implementation Partnership, which consists of federal agencies and state officials and is aiming to encourage manufacturing and workforce training for future offshore wind projects, including floating technologies. California and Louisiana, which also joined the partnership yesterday, bring the total number of state members to 13.

The administration’s moves on floating wind came alongside others focused on traditional offshore wind.

Interior said it would hold the first-ever sale of offshore wind leases in the Gulf of Mexico, estimating that it could result in enough energy to power 1.3 million households (Greenwire, Feb. 22).

DOE added it would develop a road map for offshore wind projects’ operations and maintenance, with Sandia National Laboratories and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The road map will identify knowledge gaps and technology solutions, it said.

Floating turbines, which rest on a platform lashed to the deep sea bottom, are of interest as an alternative to conventional offshore wind turbines, which have foundations buried directly into the seabed.

Experts say there are various advantages to floating designs.

Two-thirds of U.S. offshore wind resources are located in deepwater areas, where conventional turbines aren’t an option, according to DOE. That includes not just California but virtually the entire West Coast, where water depths start to plunge not far from shore.

But no floating wind projects currently exist in the United States, in large part because they would be much more expensive to build.

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