The U.S. must build at least 34 new manufacturing facilities at a total cost of $22.4 billion in order to deploy 30 GW of offshore wind generation by 2030, according to a report released Monday by the Business Network for Offshore Wind and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Building out a fully domestic supply chain for 30 GW of offshore wind will take six to nine years, suggesting that the U.S. will need to continue to import at least some offshore wind components in order to meet the 2030 goal, according to the report.
Investment in a U.S. offshore wind supply chain must begin immediately, according to Ross Gould, vice president for supply chain development at the Business Network for Offshore Wind. If the current trajectory remains unchanged, he said the U.S. will deploy just 13.8 GW by 2030.
The Biden Administration wants to see 30 GW of offshore wind deployed over the next seven years, but the U.S. lacks adequate manufacturing facilities to make this vision a reality, according to Monday’s report.
In addition to a need for more onshore manufacturing facilities to assemble major offshore wind components such as blades and towers, the U.S. needs to increase its fleet of specialized vessels used in offshore wind installations, the report says. But only a fraction of the nation’s ports are capable of building and staging these vessels, which could limit the deployment of offshore wind to less than half the Biden Administration’s target.
And although the U.S. will likely need to rely on imports to reach the 2030 goal, it won’t be able to reach that mark with imports alone, Gould said. Neither Europe nor Asia has enough available manufacturing capacity to meet offshore wind goals set on those continents, even without taking exports to the U.S. into account, he said.
In addition to investing $22.4 billion in new manufacturing facilities, ports and large installation vessels, the U.S. will need additional investment in support vessels and raw materials, along with workforce training, according to the report.
But the need for more qualified workers is also an opportunity: the report estimates that building a fully domestic offshore wind supply chain could directly support 10,000 new manufacturing jobs by 2035. Suppliers to these manufacturers would need another 10,000-45,000 new workers, depending on the extent of the manufacturing expansion.
“While there is a fantastic opportunity to create jobs in component manufacturing,” Gould said, “we should also look deeper at suppliers and invest in those companies as well because there is much greater job potential there than you would find in a major component manufacturing facility.”
Many of the companies that could benefit from this investment in downstream suppliers already exist, Gould said— companies that supply steel decking and rails, for example. However, he said they may not realize that offshore wind presents an opportunity to expand their businesses, highlighting a need for greater communication and coordination across regions and industries in addition to the need for investment.