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The wind is at our backs: After the AWEA Offshore Wind Conference

Spirits were high at AWEA's Offshore Wind Conference.
The wind is at our backs: After the AWEA Offshore Wind Conference
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Coming on the heels of last week’s successful AWEA Offshore Wind Conference & Exhibition, we are seeing real, tangible signs of momentum for this growing industry. The conference was a bustling convention of over 600 people all coming to see what in fact is happening in the U.S. offshore wind market.

And they didn’t leave disappointed.

High energy, high hopes

Not only did they hear from key policy makers in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York and the federal government about measures that incentivize development, they also heard from supply chain companies, floating wind technology experts and the nation’s leading developers, who are charting the course for the next phase of this industry.

I have been to many offshore wind conferences (this year was my sixth!), and I have never before seen so many people at the closing session. It was standing-room-only for the Developers’ Roundtable, as everyone in the room wanted to hear about what’s next directly from the companies building these projects. The energy in the room was buoyant and the conference closed on a high note.

Getting a firsthand look

For those lucky enough to get a ticket to the boat tour to Deepwater Wind’s Block Island Wind Farm the next day, the best was yet to come.

We set sail from Quonset Point, R.I., early Thursday morning with the weather forecast on our side. A few of us more cautious sailors took some Dramamine, hoping for calm seas but preparing for much worse. But the gods were smiling on us that day and the weather conditions couldn’t have been more perfect. Not only was the ocean like glass, we had two dolphin sightings as well!

Keynote speakers on the boat tour were Bryan Martin, Chairman, Deepwater Wind, and CEO, D.E. Shaw Renewable Investments; Jeff Grybowski, CEO, Deepwater Wind; Tim Brown, GE Renewable Energy; Jose Zayas, Director, Wind & Water Power Technologies Office, EERE, DOE; and Abby Hopper, Director, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).

Having folks from Deepwater Wind and GE on the boat was a true honor and privilege, as all on board got to hear directly from the people responsible for building this pioneer project. Jeff Grybowski even acted as tour guide as we got closer to the project site, pointing out where the transmission cable had been laid and other fun facts.

And then they were upon us. America’s first offshore wind project: five six-megawatt turbines completely constructed – standing majestically before us. It was nothing short of awe-inspiring and all on board felt like we were watching history being made.

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Our view from the boat tour.

To make the tour even more special, BOEM Director Hopper announced the lease auction for the New York Wind Energy Area (WEA) would take place on December 15, 2016. The announcement builds on the progress made in this milestone year and sets the stage for 2017. 14 companies or government entities, including the New York State Energy & Research Development Authority, DONG Energy and Fishermen’s Energy, have been deemed qualified to bid on the WEA next month.

It is with real excitement that we await that auction and the next chapter for U.S. offshore wind.

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Nancy Sopko is the Manager of Advocacy & Federal Legislative Affairs at the American Wind Energy Association. In this role, Nancy is the lead on offshore wind issues for the association and focuses on building the political power of wind by increasing the level of engagement between AWEA’s member companies and Members of Congress and the administration. Before joining AWEA, Nancy worked at Oceana, a nonprofit ocean conservation advocacy organization, where she focused on promoting offshore wind development. Nancy also worked as Legislative Counsel for the Hon. John H. Adler (NJ-03) (deceased), the New Jersey State Legislature, and is a licensed attorney in the state of New Jersey.

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