Offshore wind experts testify in Washington

Steps to safeguard booming industry outlined.

U.S. Rep. William Keating speaks during a Zoom hearing on offshore wind power.

At a virtual hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Energy, the Environment, and Cyber hosted by U.S. Rep. Bill Keating, D-Bourne, offshore wind experts gave testimony on the progress of the industry to date and what would benefit its ongoing development in America. Keating prefaced the hearing by describing offshore wind as a “burgeoning, clean, and job-creating energy industry.” Keating called the hearing an opportunity for learning and cooperation and noted America is positioned to establish offshore wind farms thanks to “monumental achievements” made by European pioneers, starting with a 1991 Danish farm, Europe’s first.

Vineyard Wind CEO Lars Pedersen testified that he has experience working on 15 offshore wind projects and that he’s seen offshore wind go from experimental stages to valuable and booming stages in Europe.

“In the mid 2000s offshore wind was an expensive niche technology in Europe, and now it’s the lowest cost, fastest expanding energy sector in much of Northern Europe. What we learned in those early days was that in order to drive down costs we needed to scale up the industry in terms of project size and technology while ensuring that bottlenecks were addressed early on to create predictability in project delivery. Boom-bust cycles would negatively affect the ability for companies to make long term investments in infrastructure assets, supply chain, and workforce. Scaling up is directly tied to technology and nowhere is this more evident than in offshore wind.”

Pedersen testified that wind turbine size has “increased by a factor of almost six in the past 15 years.”

Pedersen noted Vineyard Wind 1 will be constructed with the 13 megawatt General Electric GE Haliade-X turbines, 62 in total across the wind farm. Pedersen described these turbines as the largest that are commercially available. Overall he testified that Vineyard Wind 1 will be built using components from as many American manufacturers as possible. 

As The Times previously reported, the 62 turbines will be situated 15 miles south of the Vineyard and will produce 800 megawatts of electricity. That electricity will be sent through two export cables buried under the Atlantic seafloor. The cables will pass through the Muskeget Channel, about a mile off Chappaquiddick, and stretch across Nantucket Sound to a landfall at Barnstable, where they will send electricity into the grid. 

Pedersen noted part of scaling up means expanding the pool of available specialized workers. To that end, in what he called part of what is becoming America’s unique stamp on the industry, Pedersen pointed to the agreement recently forged between Vineyard Wind and the Southeastern Massachusetts Building Trades Council. That deal ensures the project draws from the local union labor pool, specifically stipulating that 51 percent of the workers who erect Vineyard Wind 1 must be drawn from Barnstable County, Bristol County, Dukes County, and Plymouth County.

“It will now set the benchmark for offshore building projects in the U.S.,” Pedersen testified.

Pedersen said state and federal lawmakers can best assist the American offshore wind industry by investing in ports, vessel development, electrical grids, and workforce development.

American Clean Energy Center CEO Heather Zikle told the committee America is on the cusp.

“The American offshore Wind industry is on the verge of becoming a substantial source of clean energy close to the largest population centers on the U.S. east and west coasts,” Zikle testified. However, she noted America’s offshore wind industry is playing “catch up” to Europe and Asia.

“At the end of 2020,” Zikle testified, “there were over 24,000 megawatts of installations in Europe and the UK — over 10,000 megawatts in Asia-Pacific. While there are just 42 megawatts of domestic offshore wind in operation today, the U.S. market has tremendous potential with over 14,000 megawatts of offshore wind currently in permitting and pre construction phases. In addition to creating jobs, to date offshore wind companies have proposed investing at least $2.9 billion across manufacturing, ports, vessels, workforce development, and research areas.”

Zikle testified that Congress could help fuel the industry’s growth by facilitating major investments in port infrastructure, by providing incentives for more of the components of turbines and other elements of wind farms being manufactured in America, and by generally facilitating sustainable supply chains. 

Giles Dickson, CEO of Wind Europe, told the committee that offshore wind provides three percent of the electricity Europe consumes. Giles testified that Europe boasts 120 wind farms with 5,500 wind turbines overall that constitute 26 gigawatts of operational capacity. By 2030, that capacity is expected to reach 114 gigawatts, Giles testified. 

While climate change is a driving factor for offshore wind, Giles noted that the economic draw of offshore wind is well recognized in public and private sectors. “It is now cheaper to build offshore wind in most of Europe than it is to build new coal, gas or nuclear power plants,” Giles testified. 

The 77,000 jobs created by offshore wind in Europe presently is expected to reach 200,000 jobs by 2030, Giles testified. “Everytime we build an offshore wind turbine that generates on average $18 million of economic activity,” he testified. 

The present average capacity of turbines is 8 megawatts, Giles testified, but by 2030 turbines with 15 megawatt capacity are anticipated. 

Among the lessons learned in Europe, Giles testified, is that “maritime spatial planning” of great importance. “The 300 gigawatts that the EU wants by 2050 will take up seven percent of all of the EU’s sea space,” he testified. So it’s important that countries, in your case states, take a very long term approach to maritime spatial planning.”

In doing so, he testified to the importance of moving away from the silo approach to planning—”I mean the approach whereby you do fishing activity in a certain area, the shipping lanes are somewhere else, military activity is somewhere else, then environmental protection zones and energy in some other areas. 

There is scope for multiple use of the sea space between the different economic and societal interests.” For example, Giles testified that “it is possible to fish inside offshore wind farms provided this is passive or pelagic surface fishing.” Giles testified that the fishing industry is consulted regarding the placement and layout of wind farms and sometimes the industry is given compensation as part of the mix.

Another example he gave was military cooperation. “We’re also striving for happy coexistence with military activity,” he testified. “On offshore wind turbines there are many sensors and cameras which are accumulating invaluable data and images. And some countries in Europe were exploring with the military authorities how we can share this data and images with them.”

At the close of the hearing, which lasted about an hour and 20 minutes, Keating said he found the testimony “extremely informative.”


  1. There must be a process for charging the applicants an up front fee, inflation adjusted, to remove or replace the turbines and the massive revetments that hold them to the sea floor when they reach the end of their lives!

    • The decommissioning(removal) or recommissioning(replacing the tower and/or nacelle) of the turbines in an offshore wind farm is part of any Construction and Operations Plan submitted to BOEM for consideration. This means that this cost is built into total cost of the project.

    • You mean just like fossil fuel industry does?
      The sea floor in the Gulf of Mexico is littered with their trash.

    • Ana– I am sure that you are aware that there are thousands of miles of abandoned oil pipelines with up to a Billion gallons of oil in them sitting on the floor of the gulf of Mexico, and there are no plans whatsoever to remove them. Just wait until they rot and leak the oil seems to be the plan.
      Also the “massive revetments” you speak of consist of a 30 ft. diameter steel monopole that is driven into the seabed to a depth of nearly 150 ft. If we are going to leave thousands of miles of oil filled pipe on the seafloor , I see no reason to do anything but cut the monopoles off flush with the seabed. The other part of the “massive revetment” is a “scour protection area” that consist a 3 ft deep pile of rocks, 4 – 12 inches in diameter ( perfect lobster habitat) that covers about 1/2 acre. Do we really need to pick them all up at the end of the windfarm’s life ?
      What does the oil industry do with the revetments of their oil platforms ?
      Or for that matter, the platforms themselves ?

  2. Are these Haliade-X wind turbines made in USA ?
    If not, are there any USA made turbines that can be used?
    GE website state’s : The Haliade-X platform serial production will kick off in the second half of 2021 at GE’s Saint-Nazaire factory in France.

    • Wind turbines are an international product.
      The Made in Americas days are over.
      There is very little that is 100% designed, manufactured and marketed in the US.
      Boeing is prime example.

    • R– The rest of the world has been making and installing wind turbines for off shore farms such as this over the last 5 years. Between January of 2017, and January of 2021 ,the U.S had been doing everything possible to stop any development of clean energy.
      And now you wonder if the turbines are being made in the U.S.A — Are you joking ???
      Have you ever heard of the “free market” ? Why on earth would anyone try to manufacture a turbine in a country that was so hostile to the very concept ?

      • That matters not if you can make a profit. Europe is anti-gun but several of the best handguns and rifles are made in Germany and Austria (Glock, Sig-Sauer and Heckler & Koch.

  3. Why do people assume that Wind Turbine are a “Once and Done ” installation? There are many instances Globally where Wind Turbines are upgraded to newer and higher output turbines long before their life requires replacement.

    The Haliade-X wind turbines made in one place- it is next to a pier for loading directly unto specialized transport ships that take the assemblies directly to the erecting barges for installation.

  4. We all know what happens when you go cheap, it ends up costing you in the end. This is a bad idea, not enough research, our waters off of Martha’s Vineyard is considered 1 of the top 10 marine ecosystems in the world. I believe some of this research is flawed, we need more of it, there are so many concerns to our ocean and the impacts of offshore wind development. I am still not aware of any compensation anywhere. Talk is cheap.

    • Susan
      How much research do you think we need before we put these things up ?
      The world’s first off shore wind farm was put on line 30 years ago , in 1991, off the coast of Denmark and produced power for 25 years ..It was fully decommissioned in 2016 and the blades were repurposed for sound barriers along a stretch of highway..
      That was all thoroughly researched before it went up.
      They have improved since then.

      And just to dispel some misinformation that I have seen here, there is no cement in or around the bases of these turbines. — NONE– Nukes are typically licensed for 40 years, by the way, and require maintenance and security for generations after de commissioning
      which is more than the cost of the original construction.

      Since 1991 there have been hundreds of off shore wind farms installed around the world, with a combined electrical output of 35.3 gigawatts. V-one will add .8 gigawatts to that number. — yes–point 8,world's%20largest%20offshore%20wind%20farm.

      As for your concerns about the oceans. All those turbines spinning above the ocean are reducing the need to burn fossil fuels. The by product of that combustion is not only carbon which eventually finds it’s way into the ocean and increases acidity, but other pollutants such as mercury which finds it’s way into that can of tuna in your pantry.
      The burning of that much fossil fuel is also contributing to the warming of the oceans, which is not all that great for marine life. Rising sea levels are flooding the marshlands , which are the nurseries of many aquatic populations, and the beginnings of the food chain. Never mind coastal flooding and salt water intrusions into coastal aquifers, such as ours.
      Yes, Susan, I agree– talk is cheap.

    • What have fisherman done to improve our marine eco-system?
      Relative to fishing wind is low impact.
      Wind turbines will give fish a place to hide from fisherman so that they can reproduce.

    • We all know what happens when you go expensive, you overspend to the point where the project is no longer financially viable.

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