New York state will lead a research and development hub dedicated to reducing the cost of offshore wind energy in the United States.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) $18.5 million over four years to establish a public-private consortium tasked with developing solutions to offshore wind installation, operation, maintenance and supply chain challenges. DOE’s national laboratories will receive an additional $2 million to support the consortium.

In an interview, Mark Torpey, NYSERDA's director of business and innovation, said New York won the bid to host the consortium because its model for selecting research projects will be “laser-focused on reducing the levelized cost of electricity.”

An industry-led consortium

Torpey stressed that NYSERDA’s offshore wind initiative will be an industry-led consortium.

“The research agenda we’re going to support will be approved and reviewed by industry,” he said. “That construct will lead to very specific, practical and tangible projects to solve real-world problems.”

Project developers made financial commitments to join the consortium’s board of directors. The goal, said Torpey, is for the consortium to continue with industry funding beyond the four-year term of the DOE grant.

NYSERDA’s consortium was modeled on an RD&D project, the Offshore Wind Accelerator, managed by the London-based Carbon Trust. That project also has a board composed of project developers. The accelerator receives limited funding from the Scottish government but is primarily privately funded via member dues.

NYSERDA brought the Carbon Trust on as a partner specifically for its expertise in managing an industry-led R&D consortium.

Three pillars of research projects

Based on guidelines in DOE’s funding solicitation, the NYSERDA R&D consortium will focus on three pillars: improving wind farm or wind turbine design; developing methods to reduce siting and installation costs, as well as improving analytical capabilities for atmospheric and wind modeling; and reducing costs in operations and maintenance and the supply chain.

The consortium plans to group its coming solicitations to conform with those areas of focus.

Torpey said NYSERDA is hesitant to identify possible specific research projects at the outset because they are “adhering to the notion that we really want this to be industry-led and board-led” and it might be perceived as “short-circuiting that deliberative process.”

The consortium will maintain a national focus. California and New Jersey signed on as members of the consortium, and NYSERDA plans to reach out to other states to join.

“Drawing upon the best researchers from across the country to focus on some of the key critical areas across those three pillars will be the best approach to getting cost reductions for consumers,” said Torpey.

He went on, “Even if this consortium is successful at driving a reduction in $10 per megawatt-hour for projects going forward, just in New York alone, with our 2,400-megawatt target, the annual cost savings to consumers as a result of that is on the order of $90 million to $100 million a year.”

“It’s an incredible return on investment,” he said.

Project solicitations planned for early 2019

NYSERDA plans to move quickly to issue the first research project solicitations. DOE had urged the consortium to be able to move on and select projects within six months of the award being granted.

Mark Torpey said the consortium could issue project solicitations as early as January or February of 2019.