The Baker Hughes U.S. active offshore rig numbers continue to hover in the plus or minus 20 range. While things could be worse, a decent recovery in the offshore rig count appears to be still in the wings.

On the flip side, U.S. Gulf of Mexico oil production, at about 2 million bbls. per day, is at its highest level ever. Combined with burgeoning onshore production, mostly from the Permian Basin, the U.S. is now the largest oil producer in the world at 12 million bpd. The U.S. has also set a new oil exports record, shipping an estimated 3.6 million bpd to foreign markets. While the production numbers may bode well for the offshore supply boat market, the rig numbers are disappointing and could somewhat dampen the long-awaited recovery.

But there is an alternative – wind power. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), activity in offshore wind power has increased significantly.

A recent NREL report notes that the U.S. offshore wind industry took a leap forward as several commercial-scale projects were selected for state-issued power purchase awards in 2018:

  • The first round of offshore wind solicitations in Massachusetts was awarded to the 800-MW Vineyard Wind project.
  • Rhode Island selected Deepwater Wind’s 400-MW Revolution Wind proposal to support the state’s goal of adding 1,000 MW of renewables by 2020.
  • In Connecticut, an additional 200 MW of offshore wind capacity from Deepwater Wind’s Revolution Wind project was selected under the state’s clean energy request for proposals.

Other U.S. states implemented dedicated energy procurement and offtake policies in 2017–2018:

  • New York committed to 2,400 MW of offshore wind capacity by 2030.
  • New Jersey increased its 2030 offshore wind commitment from 1,100 MW to 3,500 MW and directed its Board of Public Utilities to implement the state’s offshore renewable energy credit program.

Globally, wind turbines continue to grow in capacity, hub height, and rotor diameter, leading to decreased overall project costs. Three manufacturers have announced the development of turbines rated greater than 10 MW and rotor diameters as large as 220 meters.

With stable policies in place, the Department of Energy found that the U.S. could install a total of 22,000 MW of offshore wind projects by 2030 and 86,000 MW by 2050. And here is the best part: Offshore wind development will also tap into the skills of workers in existing U.S. oil and gas companies, which have decades of experience developing ocean energy infrastructure. That is good news for the workboat industry.