Summary of Offshore wind: Unlocking potential for a green stimulus Webinar

On  July 27, the Atlantic Council hosted a webcast on opportunities and challenges on offshore wind with speakers Karen Douglas, CEC Commissioner, Thomas Brostrom, CEO Orsted North America, David Hayes, State Energy and Environmental Impact Center (and former Obama and Clinton appointee), and Hannes Pfeifenberger, Brattle Group. In this webcast, hosted in a discussion format, Orsted showed excitement about the offshore wind industry, which is projected to grow to over 100 GW by 2030, especially on the east coast of the U.S., but Commissioner Douglas highlighted strong interest from the State of California to develop the resource off the California coast.

Panelists explained that interconnection at large offshore wind farms will become difficult, and there is a cumbersome planning process that’s not well designed. Orsted and Brattle Group mentioned that onshore upgrades are required at a larger scale, and especially on the east coast. Multiple states can’t easily coordinate to ensure the combined effort that is needed.

Commissioner Douglas stated that California has unique challenges to increase wind resources due to the mismatch of available transmission grid onshore with the areas best suited for offshore wind resources development. The electric grid in northern California is underdeveloped and would require expansion to address offshore generation, but has the highest generation potential.

During the Q&A, CHBC staff asked several questions related to hydrogen. Douglas said that although she sees offshore wind being complementary to existing renewable generation, it is not additive to peak production. CEC is very interested in non-lithium ion energy storage, and longer duration storage technologies, including green hydrogen as part of the storage mix. Producing hydrogen from offshore wind along the northern coast in her mind would be preferable to transmission expansion. However, she doesn’t see the hydrogen market developed enough yet. Douglas mentioned European developments in this sector as examples of what could be done. While renewable hydrogen can be produced cheaply using curtailed renewables, those resources are only available sporadically and not 24 hours a day. She thinks offshore wind may be an opportunity for a more consistent green hydrogen production, though the cost of electricity would be higher than curtailed electricity.

Orsted said they are looking aggressively at hydrogen, and see a strong potential for a combination of hydrogen production and offshore wind, as already showcased in projects under development in European countries. Orsted sees a need to mature hydrogen technology further in the U.S.

The recording is available here: https://youtu.be/ir8O8wct57E