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17th July 2017

In 2015, the Department of Energy’s Wind Vision Report projected that the US offshore wind industry could support investment to reach a cumulative capacity of 3 GW by 2020, 22 GW by 2030 and 86 GW by 2050. These targets do look wildly unrealistic, but the prospects for growth in offshore wind still look strong even under a Trump presidency.

The US saw its first commercial offshore wind farm installed off Rhode Island at the end of 2016. Although small in size (30 MW at full capacity) Deepwater Wind’s Rhode Island marks a milestone for the US renewables sector. This is the country’s first operational offshore wind farm, which could lay the foundation for several developments off the US coast over the next decade.

Westwood Global Energy Group’s (WGEG’s) World Offshore Wind Market Forecast 2017-2026 paints an encouraging picture for the US offshore wind sector over the next decade. Cumulative capacity is set to grow from 30 MW in 2016 to 2.5 GW by 2026, with an additional 1 GW of capacity from projects which have not yet passed conceptual phases, assuming an offshore wind target of 5GW by 2030.

USA Cumulative Capacity by Current Project Status, 2016-2026
USA Cumulative Capacity by Current Project Status, 2016-2026

US offshore wind expenditure is forecast to total $28bn between 2017 and 2026, with a 39% year-on-year growth. Hardware Capex is expected to amount to €19.1bn, accounting for 68% of total spend, followed by installation at €6.2bn (22%) and planning and development at €2.9bn (10%). The US total population of operational turbines is expected to grow from 6 in 2016 to 580 by 2026.

Since Rhode Island, Deepwater Wind has obtained a permission to build the 90 MW Deepwater One wind farm off New York. Statoil will also be exploring the potential to host over 1 GW offshore New York. Other encouraging signs include the first US auction under Trump, which resulted in a winning bid of nearly $9.1m from Avangrid Renewables, for the 1.5 GW Kitty Hawk project lease, and the award of offshore wind renewable credits by the Maryland Public Service Commission in May 2017.

Despite president Trump’s pro-oil and gas stance and his decision to leave the Paris Climate Accord, there are some positive signs that US offshore wind is gaining momentum. More importantly, as each state has its own renewable electricity mandates, the withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord is likely to affect emission targets at a federal level only. It remains to be seen the extent to which President Trump will be able to influence individual states’ renewable policies.

Marina Ivanova, Analyst
[email protected] or +44 (0)1795 594721