History Origins of The USOWC
The idea of creating an interdisciplinary public/private partnership to facilitate the development and growth of a sustainable offshore wind industry in the United States was conceived in 2004 following the first proposal to build an offshore wind energy project in the nation. After exploring Europe’s decade-plus experience with wind energy in the marine environment, learning about the potential of our domestic offshore wind resource and gaining firsthand experience with the initial permitting deliberations around Cape Wind, the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC) joined with GE Wind Energy and the US Department of Energy (DOE) to consider the question, “What would it take to build an offshore wind energy industry here, and do it right?”
These three partners formed the initial, informal Offshore Wind Collaborative, convening a broad group of stakeholders in Washington, DC to consider a myriad of opportunities and challenges: global warming and energy security, the vast offshore wind resources of the United States, the complexities of working in the marine ecosystem, and the prospects for new technologies that would expand access to the wind resource. The result was A Framework for Offshore Wind Energy Development in the United States (September 2005). The Framework is a comprehensive agenda for the development of a sustainable offshore wind industry that anticipates environmental and socioeconomic concerns and calls for harnessing the collective resources of academia, the public sector, business, and the NGO community to address key issues and to take advantage of every opportunity to mitigate by design.
To demonstrate the value of an offshore wind collaborative, DOE, GE, and MTC jointly funded six pilot projects. The projects were completed in 2005 by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Massachusetts, and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. They covered topics relating to the regulatory framework for offshore wind, technical considerations, and the economic and environmental performance of offshore wind.
After publication of the initial Business Plan, the landscape for offshore wind development changed considerably. While DOE and GE shifted focus to the high demand for land-based wind development, several coastal states launched significant initiatives to attract, incentivize, and plan for wind development offshore. The regulatory context became clearer with the authority granted to Department of Interior’s Minerals Management Service (MMS, now BOEMRE) to develop a program for leasing Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) lands for renewable energy. The private sector increased R&D into deep-water technologies and investment in proposed projects. And the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA)-based Offshore Wind Working Group attracted over 100 members. Energy development—renewable energy in particular—emerged as one of the central issues in federal and state ocean planning agendas.
With this momentum, there was a call seeking organizations to join an ad-hoc Steering Committee to organize and manage the formal launch of the USOWC. The Steering Committee included several organizations that participated in development of the Framework and Business Plan, and others that represented the expanding interest in offshore wind energy development. During this planning phase the Steering Committee convened, for the first time, representatives of state-level offshore wind initiatives at the AWEA Offshore Wind Power Workshop in September 2008. Environmental and energy agency staff shared their interest in offshore wind development, learned from each others’ experiences, and identified shared concerns for further exploration.
In 2009 the USOWC published U.S. Offshore Wind Energy: A Path Forward. This document serves as a resource for government, industry, and non-governmental stakeholders by offering a snapshot of U.S. offshore wind energy activity in 2009. Later in the same year the USOWC officially incorporated as an independent 501(c)3 non-profit. Seed money for organizational startup came from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MCEC), and the Energy Foundation provided additional program funding.
In 2010 opened an office in the Cambridge Innovation Center at 1 Broadway, Cambridge, MA. The USOWC plans to expand its capacity-building capabilities and adapt to the evolving industry context in order to successfully pursue its mission: to catalyze a robust and sustainable US offshore wind industry.
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