Connecting the Dots: Putting Offshore Wind Energy to Work

Researchers identify optimal ways to connect offshore wind farms to benefit the grid in coastal regions


A new study determined ideal scenarios for connecting future offshore wind projects to East Coast communities. Photo by Getty Images

The most recent US census states that 44.4 million people, or nearly 14% of the population, live along the Atlantic coast. There are many people, who need a lot of electricity. And as the country pushes to decarbonize the energy sector, that energy must increasingly come from renewable sources, such as solar and wind.

But densely populated coastlines often don't have the space needed for large solar or wind farms. That's why developers and scientists expect offshore wind to play a key role in supporting a low-carbon future for East Coast communities. And that's also why researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have spent two years evaluating transmission options to make the best possible connections between offshore wind projects and communities. the Atlantic Coast.

He Study of offshore wind energy transmission in the Atlantic was the most comprehensive analysis to date of options for bringing offshore wind energy to Atlantic Coast communities.

The objective of the study was to identify ways to facilitate the transmission of offshore wind energy to high demand areas and reduce grid congestion, increase system reliability, maximize production and reduce costs for consumers.

The study also informed the simultaneously published publication. Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Transmission Action Planwhich outlines the immediate actions the United States must take to connect the first generation of offshore wind projects in the Atlantic to the electric grid and how they can increase transmission in the coming decades.

The benefits of interconnection

The study's authors outlined an important step that would help reduce electricity costs and improve the reliability of the U.S. grid, while reducing disruption to ecosystems or other ocean users. Step? First link offshore wind projects to each other rather than connecting them individually to the onshore grid.

"We found that the benefits of connecting offshore wind power stations outweigh the costs of installing those individual connections by a ratio of 2:1 or more," said Greg Brinkman, a senior research engineer at NREL and co-author of the report with Dave. Corbus, a power systems engineer at NREL, and colleagues at PNNL. "Creating these transmission networks would generate substantial savings compared to a scenario where each project has its own isolated transmission connections."

To then bring power from those offshore wind farm networks to land, the team identified potential transmission “corridors”: sites that avoid location restrictions such as military zones and shipping channels, as well as marine protected areas and artificial reefs.

The study, which was based on the goal of deploying 85 gigawatts of offshore wind power off the Atlantic coast by 2050, found that building offshore transmission in phases could help reduce risks. The study's authors also suggested that the nation implement standards for high-voltage direct current technology early in the process to help developers lay new transmission lines and expand those networks in the future.

The Atlantic Offshore Wind Transmission Study was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Wind Energy Technologies Office. The Atlantic Offshore Wind Transmission Action Plan was led by the Department of Energy's Office of Grid Deployment. US Energy in partnership with the US Department of the Interior's Wind Energy Technologies Office and Office of Ocean Management.

Learn more about the Study of offshore wind energy transmission in the Atlantic and subscribe to NREL Vanguard Newsletter for more wind energy news.

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