Supply Chain Road Map for Offshore Wind Energy in the United States
An NREL-led study evaluated how the U.S. supply chain can evolve to support the national offshore wind target and position the industry for sustainable growth beyond 2030.
The national offshore wind energy target of 30 gigawatts (GW) by 2030 referenced the potential benefits of establishing a domestic supply chain, including providing existing suppliers with the ability to produce thousands of components while creating tens of thousands of U.S. jobs.
Achieving these benefits will require a significant ramp-up in domestic manufacturing, ports, vessels, and workforce, all of which are currently too limited to support the needed levels of commercial-scale offshore wind energy deployment.
NREL led the 30 GW by 2030: A Supply Chain Road Map for Offshore Wind in the United States project to create a road map that identifies challenges and solutions to developing a nationally focused offshore wind energy supply chain that has the potential to manufacture all major components domestically by 2030.
The project was overseen by the National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium and conducted by a partnership among NREL, the Business Network for Offshore Wind, and DNV. Funding and support were provided by the National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium, the Maryland Energy Administration, and the U.S. Department of Energy.
The project included two phases, each with a published report:
The Demand for a Domestic Offshore Wind Energy Supply Chain, published in March 2022
A Supply Chain Road Map for Offshore Wind Energy in the United States, published in January 2023.
What Are the Pathways To Develop a Domestic Offshore Wind Energy Supply Chain?
Researchers developed a road map consisting of suggested short-, medium-, and long-term actions to overcome barriers to development and create a resilient, equitable, and comprehensive offshore wind energy supply chain. Find out more below about what’s needed to ramp things up and keep it all running. Learn more about the outcomes and impacts of each action in Section 4 of the 2023 report.
To build a strong supply chain foundation for the offshore wind energy industry, the country needs to:
- Convene working groups focused on regional and holistic supply chain development
- Identify locations to build the next wave of supply chain development equitably and efficiently
- Continue to expand the offshore wind energy pipeline
- Assess the need for and impact of incentive mechanisms beyond existing programs
- Establish strategies and incentive mechanisms targeted at floating wind infrastructure
- Establish curriculum and funding streams for workforce training centers
- Conduct outreach and education activities with existing suppliers to increase awareness of offshore wind energy opportunities.
To gain momentum with a smoothly running domestic supply chain for the offshore wind energy industry, the country needs to:
- Construct the major supply chain facilities needed to meet the demand pipeline
- Continue to expand the offshore wind energy pipeline
- Leverage national, regional, and industry working groups to share and develop best practices for supply chain activities
- Incorporate learning from early-stage commercial-scale projects into ongoing operations and decision-making
- Train a sufficient manufacturing workforce
- Evaluate procedural and impact equity metrics for early-stage commercial-scale projects and incorporate best practices into ongoing supply chain development activities.
To maintain the offshore wind energy industry with the U.S. supply chain, the country will need to:
- Maintain and upgrade key supply chain infrastructure to adapt to evolving technologies
- Expand supply chain infrastructure to new regions using lessons learned from early build-out
- Fill manufacturing gaps in supporting supply chains with domestic production
- Continue to expand the offshore wind energy pipeline.
What Will It Take To Install 30 Gigawatts of Offshore Wind Energy by 2030?
The reports highlight the top-level demand for deployment, components, ports, vessels, and workforce required to achieve the national offshore wind target of 30 GW of capacity.
Required Resources To Deploy 30 GW of Offshore Wind Energy by 2030
average annual workforce
Key findings include:
- Deploying 30 GW by 2030 will require at least 2,100 wind turbines and foundations along with a significant number of supporting system components, vessels, and workforce.
- Existing international manufacturing facilities likely will not have sufficient capacity to provide components for the United States and global demand, which could create bottlenecks without a domestic supply chain.
- New/expanded ports and new vessels are required to alleviate risks of missing the national offshore wind energy target.
- The research team identified subcomponents that pose a challenge to domestic component
- Yaw and pitch bearings
- Permanent magnets
- Flanges and other large cast or forged components
- Steel plates that are rolled into monopiles or towers
- Electrical systems for offshore substations
- Mooring chains.
Investments in Manufacturing Facilities Needed To Establish a Supply Chain by 2030
What Could a Domestic Offshore Wind Energy Supply Chain Look Like?
The second report builds on the high-level demand information from the first report and presents challenges that could delay supply chain growth, potential solutions to these challenges, and major factors that need to be considered to create a resilient, sustainable, and equitable supply chain. In it, researchers offer a scenario they developed for a domestic supply chain to estimate the investment and time frame needed to develop key resources like manufacturing facilities, ports, vessels, and workforce.
Key findings include:
- A domestic supply chain that can supply 4–6 GW of projects per year will likely require
an investment of at least $22 billion in ports, large installation vessels, and manufacturing
- Additional investment will be needed in support vessels, workforce training, and supporting supply chain expansion.
- This supply chain could be developed in 6–9 years. Additional development will likely be required after 2030 as floating offshore wind energy becomes more prevalent.
- Half of the U.S. offshore wind energy projects in the pipeline are at risk of being delayed beyond 2030 because of limited port and vessel infrastructure. This risk could be addressed with around $6 billion of investment in new/expanded ports and vessels.
- Domestically manufactured components can be cost competitive with imported components, but the United States will still need to import components to meet the 30-GW target as the domestic supply chain ramps up.
- A domestic supply chain could create 10,000 full-time equivalent jobs in major-component manufacturing facilities by 2030 with up to 5 times as many opportunities for supplier jobs, all of which would span the country.
- Many ongoing supply chain activities are considering energy justice principles. Expanding these considerations could help to maximize benefits and minimize harm to host communities for supply chain resources.
National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium
A Supply Chain Road Map for Offshore Wind Energy in the United States, NREL Technical Report (2023)
The Demand for a Domestic Offshore Wind Energy Supply Chain, NREL Technical Report (2022)
Securing America’s Clean Energy Supply Chain, U.S. Department of Energy Office of Policy (2022)
U.S. Offshore Wind Workforce Assessment, NREL Technical Report (2022)
Supply Chain Connect Database, Business Network for Offshore Wind (2022)
Power Sector, Supply Chain, Jobs, and Emissions Implications of 30 Gigawatts of Offshore Wind Power by 2030, NREL Technical Report (2021)
Senior Offshore Wind AnalystMatt.Shields@nrel.gov