Domestic Supply Chain for Offshore Wind Energy

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by | Jan 24, 2023

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The ‘Supply Chain Road Map for Offshore Wind Energy in the United States,’ a new report released by the Business Network for Offshore Wind is a culmination of research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, in collaboration with the National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium, the U.S. Department of Energy, DNV, the Maryland Energy Administration, and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

The offshore wind energy industry in the United States is gaining momentum as the project pipeline has expanded, states have established procurement targets, and initial investments have been made in ports and manufacturing facilities. These efforts helped lead to the Biden administration’s announcement of a national offshore wind energy target to install 30 GW by 2030.

“A manufacturing supply chain is already emerging in more than a dozen locations up and down the U.S. coast in support of the offshore wind industry, which will lead to thousands of well-paying jobs,” said Ross Gould, vice president for Supply Chain Development and Research at the Business Network for Offshore Wind. “To meet our ambitious clean energy national goals, American manufacturers must play a larger role to accelerate our transition. This road map lays out the challenges and collaborative actions needed to bring more domestic companies into the supply chain and the opportunity those businesses bring to building out the U.S. offshore wind industry.”

This report describes how the United States could develop a fully domestic offshore wind energy supply chain. It discusses barriers that could prevent or delay supply chain expansion and offers potential solutions that could help overcome these challenges. Additionally, the report highlights major considerations for developing resilient, sustainable, and equitable manufacturing capabilities.

Domestic Offshore Wind Energy Supply Chain

  • A domestic supply chain would require at least 34 new manufacturing facilities for critical offshore wind components to meet demand in 2030.
  • The industry will likely need to invest over $11 billion in marshaling ports, fabrication ports, and large installation vessels by 2030 to support the manufacture, transport, and installation of major offshore wind energy components.
  • A domestic supply chain will likely require an investment of at least $22.4 billion in manufacturing facilities, ports, and large installation vessels.

Manufacturing of Offshore Wind Energy Components

  • Offshore wind manufacturing facilities could cost at least $200–$400 million and could take 3–5 years to permit and construct.
  • As a domestic supply chain ramps up production during the 2020s, the U.S. offshore wind energy sector will likely have to import between 15–25 GW worth of components to meet the 2030 deployment targets.
  • Lower transport costs avoided tariffs, and incentives from the IRA could help domestically produced components be cost-competitive with imported ones, although this outcome will likely depend on the difference in labor costs between the locations of U.S. and international facilities.

Port and Vessel Infrastructure

  • Port and vessel infrastructure that either already exists, is under construction, or has been announced could limit offshore wind energy deployment to under 14 GW by 2030 (less than half of the national offshore wind target).
  • The United States would likely need to invest around $6 billion in marshaling ports, WTIVs, HLVs, and specialized feeder barges to meet 30 GW of offshore wind deployment by 2030.
  • There are a limited number of U.S. shipyards that can construct large installation vessels such as WTIVs and HLVs. This constraint may lead to more projects using installation methods that rely on specialized, U.S.- flagged feeder barges, which would allow WTIVs and HLVs to be either U.S.- or foreign-flagged.
  • Additional investment will be required in floating wind marshaling ports after 2030 and other types of installation vessels, but these resources are not considered in this study.

Training a Manufacturing Workforce

  • The domestic offshore wind supply chain scenario in this report would create around 10,000 full-time equivalent jobs in major manufacturing facilities by 2030.
  • For every job created in these major facilities, there is an opportunity space for up to five supplier jobs to produce subassemblies, parts, and materials. As a result, there is a greater job market opportunity in the supporting supply chain than in major manufacturing facilities.
    • Most states in the United States have existing capabilities that could allow them to participate in the offshore wind supply chain. Improved regional collaboration that engages multiple states could lead to a more resilient supply chain with broadly distributed benefits.

DEI & Supply Chain Development

  • Meaningfully engaging with trusted local groups and with those most directly impacted by the project is crucial to encourage more just outcomes and community buy-in.
  • There is typically no one-size-fits-all benefit that supply chain investment could provide to diverse community groups and stakeholders. Understanding the needs of various groups could help identify what benefits are
    perceived as most valuable to each stakeholder.
  • Community context matters. The history, demographics, and existing priorities of port communities can shape their perceptions of a project and how it will impact them.
  • Transparency and accountability in project decision-making are key to building and maintaining trust.

A robust domestic supply chain is essential for the deployment of offshore wind in the United States. With proper development and coordination, this supply chain can be developed in parallel with deploying the first wave of projects to support continued growth in renewable energy markets.

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