West Coast Ports Strategy Study
NREL will lead a group to develop a roadmap for a strategically designed U.S. West Coast ports network that can unlock the potential of commercial-scale floating offshore wind energy deployment.
The U.S. West Coast is ramping up offshore wind energy activities with a vision of deploying commercial-scale floating offshore wind power projects in California, Oregon, Hawaii, and elsewhere by the 2030s, with the industry anticipated to expand deployment across the country though 2050 and beyond. Other regions of the United States—such as the Gulf of Maine, the Central Atlantic, and the Gulf of Mexico—also have the potential to deploy offshore floating wind energy in the next few decades.
Unfortunately, without needed upgrades, a lack of suitable port infrastructure could make it difficult to build major wind energy technology components domestically and install projects efficiently. This limitation could prevent the offshore wind energy industry from contributing to clean energy goals and domestic economic growth, as projects may be delayed or canceled if they cannot be installed efficiently.
There is still time to develop port infrastructure to support floating offshore wind energy deployment on the U.S. West Coast because projects will likely not be built until the late 2020s or early 2030s. This gives the floating offshore wind energy industry the opportunity to strategically develop a collaborative port network that could efficiently, cost effectively, and reliably support fabrication, installation, and operation and maintenance activities along the U.S. West Coast.
With funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Energy Technologies Office through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory are leading the collaborative effort to develop a West Coast ports strategy.
This study will convene key decision makers from West Coast states, coordinate port assessments from California and Oregon, and contribute new analyses of the cost-benefit tradeoffs of port strategies, including equity impacts on host communities. The study’s primary goal is to develop a West Coast ports strategy report that will inform investment and decision making by West Coast states.
In this study, NREL researchers will:
- Publish a West Coast ports strategy report containing results from NREL’s analysis work, complementary port studies, and perspectives from key stakeholders
- Convene a group of key decision makers and interested parties through in-person and virtual meetings to inform the strategy report and align on next steps for development
- Conduct analyses on cost-benefit tradeoffs and sensitivities for different West Coast port scenarios using NREL’s modeling capabilities
- Understand the energy justice impacts of expanding floating offshore wind energy infrastructure into existing or new port communities.
The West Coast Ports Strategy Study comprises three tasks.
Task 1: Analyze West Coast Port Scenarios
NREL will collaborate with multiple ongoing West Coast port studies to develop a comprehensive picture of the needs, gaps, and requirements for developing suitable port infrastructure to support commercial-scale floating offshore wind energy.
Partners on these studies include the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the California State Lands Commission, Moffat & Nichol, Mott MacDonald, and REACH.
These analyses will include design and upgrade costs for specific ports, cost-benefit tradeoff studies to inform high-level decision making about numbers and locations of required ports under different deployment scenarios, supply chain bottleneck and opportunity assessments, and energy justice and workforce assessments of port investment on the West Coast.
Task 2: Coordinate Key Decision Makers on the West Coast
The project will form a technical review committee of key stakeholders from West Coast states that can inform or make decisions about port investment.
This group will include state and federal agencies, coastal engineers, port authorities, environmental development organizations, offshore wind energy manufacturers and developers, and host community representatives. The review committee will be engaged early and consistently throughout the project to review methods, assumptions, and results. If there is sufficient capacity and interest, a more involved working group will be formed that directly integrates these stakeholders into the Task 1 analysis work.
The goal of organizing this group is to facilitate the adoption of the West Coast ports strategy by key decision makers, accelerating the growth of West Coast ports.
Task 3: Produce a Final Report
NREL will publish a West Coast Ports Strategy report that incorporates results, perspectives, and feedback from the technical review committee and other relevant stakeholders. The report will also summarize findings from ongoing, complementary West Coast ports studies along with additional analysis work from Task 1. The report is expected to be published in summer 2023.
The West Coast Ports Strategy Study will run August 2022–December 2023. Anticipated milestones include:
- Fall 2022: First meeting of the technical review committee
- Spring 2023: Second meeting of the technical review committee and completion of the draft strategy report
- Summer 2023: Third meeting of the technical review committee and publication of the strategy report.