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U.S. Department of Energy Reports Chart Path for East Coast Offshore Wind to Support a Reliable, Affordable Electricity System

Study finds interregional offshore transmission network would support long-term growth of Atlantic offshore wind, action plan identifies immediate steps and extended efforts

Published on March 25, 2024

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) released findings from the Atlantic Offshore Wind Transmission Study, a two-year study evaluating transmission options to support offshore wind energy deployment along the Atlantic Coast of the United States. Offshore wind is projected to be a key part of a low-carbon future for East Coast states and this report is the most thorough analysis to date of options to bring Atlantic offshore wind energy to American communities. While immediate projects will connect individually to the onshore grid, the study finds that after 2030, strategically linking some offshore wind energy projects via offshore transmission networks will help lower electricity production costs, enhance U.S. grid reliability, and reduce dependence on fossil fuels, while ensuring disruptions to oceanic ecosystems are minimal. This study informed the Atlantic Offshore Wind Transmission Action Plan, also finalized today, which outlines immediate actions needed to connect the first generation of Atlantic offshore wind projects to the electric grid, as well as longer-term efforts to increase transmission over the next several decades. By ensuring equitable, affordable, and timely transmission access for offshore wind, these findings support the Biden-Harris Administration’s goals of reaching 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030 and unlocking a pathway to 110 GW or more by 2050.

“Offshore wind energy is already powering more than one hundred thousand homes along the east coast, with the potential to grow and further enhance grid reliability and reduce even more fossil fuels,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “The Atlantic Offshore Wind Transmission Study and the Action Plan show the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to advance offshore wind along the nation’s coasts will boost domestic manufacturing and support tens of thousands of jobs as we tackle the climate crisis.”

Atlantic Offshore Wind Transmission Study

The Atlantic Offshore Wind Transmission Study, conducted by researchers from DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, analyzed various potential scenarios for offshore transmission off the Atlantic coast of United States. It estimates the costs and benefits of each pathway, accounting for grid reliability, resilience, and potential cable routes that consider environmental and siting constraints. It fills gaps identified in prior analyses including by providing a multi-regional planning perspective.

The report shows that offshore wind energy development presents a unique opportunity to add transmission capacity to the East Coast’s power system, with the highest benefit from offshore transmission connecting areas across grid regions. This would allow offshore wind transmission to provide energy to areas of high demand and reduce grid congestion, increase system reliability, lower curtailment, and flow power from lower-price regions to higher price regions, reducing costs for consumers. This could also reduce generation from fossil-fueled-powered units by 5.5–9.2 Terawatt-hours per year in 2050. Overall, the study found that connecting offshore wind platforms together to create transmission networks outweighs the costs, often by a ratio of 2 to 1 or more, when compared with each project having its own isolated transmission connections.

The report also identifies potentially feasible transmission corridors taking into consideration ocean co-use constraints such as military zones and shipping channels, as well as marine protected areas and artificial reefs. Actual potential points of interconnection should be determined by transparent processes and the locations used for the study are not intended to be precise suggestions.

The study, which was based on deploying 85 GW of offshore wind off the Atlantic Coast by 2050, recommends building offshore transmission in phases to help reduce development risk. It suggests early implementation of high-voltage direct current (HVDC) technology standards to support new transmission and facilitate future network expansion.

Atlantic Offshore Wind Transmission Action Plan

The comprehensive final Atlantic Offshore Wind Transmission Action Plan released on March 21 confirms the initial findings released in late 2023, and details how wind resources could efficiently be captured off the Atlantic Coast of the United States and delivered to communities as clean, reliable power. Partially funded through the Inflation Reduction Act, the Action Plan underscores DOE’s commitment to leveraging cutting-edge research and data to chart a sustainable, efficient path forward for offshore wind transmission. The Action Plan was also informed through a series of convening workshops with subject matter experts and decision makers, including tribal nations, state governments, and regional transmission operators held from April 2022 to March 2023. Over the mid- to long-term, increased intra-regional coordination, shared transmission lines, and an offshore network of high-voltage direct current (HVDC) interlinks can more efficiently bring critical, renewable offshore wind energy onshore.

The Atlantic Offshore Wind Transmission Study and report were funded by DOE’s Wind Energy Technologies Office. The Atlantic Offshore Wind Transmission Action Plan was led by DOE’s Grid Deployment Office, in partnership with the Wind Energy Technologies Office and the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Management. Sign up for the Catch the Wind newsletter and the Grid Deployment Office’s Offshore Wind listserv to receive periodic wind energy updates from DOE.

Environmental Reporter