Supply Chain Road Map for Offshore Wind Energy

This study evaluates how the U.S. supply chain can evolve to achieve the national offshore wind energy target and create local economic benefits.

Boat installing wind turbines
A new study led by NREL explores the supply chain needs of the offshore wind energy industry to hit 2030 installed capacity goals. Photo from Siemens AG

The national offshore wind energy target of 30 gigawatts 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, infrastructure, and workforce, all of which are currently too limited to support the needed levels of commercial-scale offshore wind energy deployment. Ongoing efforts to develop the domestic supply chain have been focused on individual state levels, and a comprehensive assessment of how to strategically develop a supply chain that benefits the entire industry and country is needed.

NREL is leading 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 is 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 are provided by the National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium, the Maryland Energy Administration, and the U.S Department of Energy.

The project includes two phases, each with a published report.

Phase I

The Demand for a Domestic Offshore Wind Energy Supply Chain (released in March 2022) highlights the top-level demand for deployment, components, ports, vessels, and workforce required to achieve the national offshore wind target of 30 gigawatts of capacity.

Requirements for Deploying
30 Gigawatts of Offshore Wind Energy
by 2030

2,100
Wind turbines
2,100
Foundations
6,800
Miles of cable
58
Crew transfer vessels
5–6
Wind turbine
installation vessels
11
Service operation
vessels
4
Cable lay vessels
2
Scour protection installation vessels
10
Transport vessels
12,300–49,000
Full-time equivalents
average annual workforce

Key findings include:

  • Deploying 30 gigawatts by 2030 will require at least:
    • 2,100 wind turbines 
    • 2,100 foundations
    • 6,800 miles of cable
    • 58 crew transfer vessels 
    • 5–6 wind turbine installation vessels
    • 11 service operation vessels
    • 4 cable lay vessels
    • 2 scour protection vessels
    • 10 transport vessels
    • 12,300–49,000 average annual workforce full-time equivalents.

  • Most components in the early 2020s will be sourced from European suppliers, which could cause bottlenecks unless a domestic supply chain develops in time to achieve the offshore wind energy target.

  • Few existing East or West Coast ports have sufficient capabilities to fully support offshore wind energy activities, although several ports are actively investing in infrastructure upgrades.

  • New vessels are required to alleviate risks of missing the national offshore wind energy target, with wind turbine installation vessels posing the biggest risk, followed by feeder barges (which transfer components, cable lay vessels, service operation vessels, and scour protection vessels).

  • Manufacturing major components domestically will create tens of thousands of annual jobs. Most of these jobs will be concentrated in the supporting supply chains instead of in fabrication of the final products, which can distribute jobs and benefits throughout the United States.

  • Though only one major offshore wind component manufacturing facility was operational as of early 2022, original equipment manufacturers and project developers have announced plans to build at least 11 new manufacturing facilities in the United States, including those focused on wind turbine blades, foundations, towers, and cables.

  • In addition to the need for major component manufacturing in the United States, the research team identified several critical-path subcomponents that pose a challenge to domestic manufacturing because of their size or specialty, including:
    • 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.

Phase II

The second phase of this project will build on the high-level demand information described in the first report to:

  • Characterize supply chain scenarios that would achieve complete domestic manufacturing of components by 2030, including manufacturing facilities, workforce requirements, and manufacturing capabilities

  • Evaluate the potential benefits of such a supply chain, including benefits and jobs as well as impact on project costs

  • Identify realistic pathways to achieve this supply chain

  • Determine readiness level of existing industries to support supply chain development.

Resources

National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium

Report Outlines Supply Chain Needs To Achieve Offshore Wind 2030 Goal, U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (2022)

The Demand for a Domestic Offshore Wind Energy Supply Chain, NREL Technical Report (2022)

Contact

Matt Shields

Senior Offshore Wind Analyst

Matt.Shields@nrel.gov
303-384-6179