For Offshore Wind, The Magic Numbers Are 30, 30, and 3

Numerologists, sharpen your pencils. Last year, President Joe Biden set an offshore wind target of 30 gigawatts by 2030 for the United States. Now California has just chimed in with its own target of 3 gigawatts. Meanwhile, the relatively small nation of Norway has also just been notified of a target of 30 gigawatts. Norway is perhaps the most interesting case among the three, given that it already has 34 gigawatts of hydropower under its belt. So what gives?

Norway must feed offshore wind power to the energy-hungry EU

Norway’s target of 30 gigawatts is significant from a few different angles, one of which is the country’s remarkably high share of electric cars in sales of new cars. If Norway continues to run along that track, it will need more clean kilowatts than its hydropower industry can support. Offshore wind could help clear the bill.

In addition, energy stakeholders in Norway are lobbying the nation to harness its hydropower assets in support of a new domestic green ammonia industry. It may also open up more opportunities for offshore wind.

Nevertheless, another 30 gigawatts provide plenty of leeway for other things, and one of them is obviously the export market.

Reuters was among the news organizations that reported Norway’s 30-gigawatt plans earlier this week. It cited a May 11 press conference held by Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Storein which he stated that “a significant part of the electricity [from offshore wind farms] will be exported to other countries. “

The timing is not random. Norway has been chasing wind power for the last few years, and now Europe is eager to drop the accumulated baggage from its relationship-with-the-devil fossil energy relations with Russia. Norway is also eager to show the world that it can relax its state-owned fossil energy activities, so it’s a win-win all around.

The green hydrogen angle

Generating electricity from offshore wind turbines is a walk in the park these days, especially now that new floating turbine technology has expanded the field of potential locations. The sticky wicket for Norway is how to get another 30 gigawatts of electricity to points elsewhere in Europe. The nation’s transmission network needs a makeover to handle all the extra capacity that will involve formidable technical challenges and plenty of cash to get started.

This is where the green hydrogen market could help. In his speech on May 11, the Prime Minister said Store indicated that the new green hydrogen industry could provide a solution to the transmission problem.

Hydrogen opens up alternative transport options. Green hydrogen could be produced on site at offshore wind farms and then piped or shipped to domestic onshore farms. From there it could be transported by truck or rail as well as pipelines. It could help maintain existing transmission capacity for exporting electricity from existing assets.

Potentially, Norway can also send its excess green hydrogen directly to Europe by ship, pipeline, truck or rail.

The United States goes from (practically) zero to thirty

Some of this activity could boomerang on to the US, which has been super-slow to leverage its offshore resources.

The Atlantic coast alone has a potential of 22 gigawatts, but so far there are only a few turbines in operation off the coast of only two Atlantic states, Rhode Island and Virginia. Together, they buzz up to a handful of megawatts, while other nations pile on gigawatts.

The Obama administration sought to coordinate offshore wind development along the Atlantic coast, only to be thwarted by coastal state governors, among other opponents. Then the Trump administration dug into the heels of the U.S. offshore wind industry, which is no surprise given the former president’s infamous aversion to wind turbines, especially those located out at sea.

In fact, there was a surprise. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which is a division of the U.S. Department of the Interior, apparently did not receive the Trump administration’s offshore wind memo. BOEM continued to work on offshore leasing auctions throughout the Trump administration. BOEM also put the finishing touches on a first of its kind process with the aim of speeding up the offshore licensing process.

Also under the Trump administration, the Interior Ministry convened in 2019 for the first meeting of the newly established Global Offshore Wind Regulators Forum in New York, consisting of Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, the United Kingdom and the United States.

In another twist, just weeks before the 2020 presidential election, BOEM signed a Dutch-based green hydrogen plan linking offshore wind with the energy export market, which could become a plan for Norway, the United States and other nations.

California sets a 3-Gigawatt target

By the time Trump lost the 2020 election (fair, for those of you who keep goals at home), a number of leading global energy stakeholders were ready to plunge into new rental options in the United States, and President Biden announced the 30-gigawatt plan only three months after accession in 2021.

The plan sets a 2030 deadline in anticipation of more than $ 12 billion a year in capital investment, leading to the creation of 44,000 direct jobs and nearly 33,000 related jobs.

It could just be the tip of the iceberg with clean energy. Proposals for green hydrogen hubs had already begun to emerge in several states during the Trump administration, and that activity has also increased during Biden’s tenure.

California is among these states. Southern California Gas Co. announced a proposal to develop “tthe nation’s largest green hydrogen energy infrastructure system ”earlier this year. Under the name “Angeles Link”, the hub would spur further wind and solar development.

It ties in nicely with a draft report that was unveiled earlier this week by the state of California. The report predicts an initial target of 3 gigawatts by 2030 for offshore wind, with more to come in 2045. This calculation is based on new floating turbine technology, which allows turbines to be installed in waters that are too deep for conventional fixed turbine construction. .

Fans of battery-electric vehicles, do not panic! Angeles Link does not appear to be designed to replace battery-powered cars with electric cars with hydrogen fuel cell, at least not to any great extent. The name is aimed at the strength of green hydrogen as an industrial decarbonizer and a zero-emission alternative for heavy trucks and other non-automotive mobility devices.

To summarize: The technology for rapid decarbonization is here, now, and happening. The only thing left to do is for policy makers to stop doing good with fossil energy stakeholders and set the wheels in motion for a rapid focal point for a more sustainable global economy.

Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey.

Photo: Offshore wind turbines on loan from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (credit: Josh Bauer).



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