The Commercial Turbines of the US Offshore Wind Industry are Spinning

Atlantic City, New Jersey was conference HQ for this year’s International Offshore Wind Partnering Forum (IPF), hosted by the Business Network for Offshore Wind from 25 – 28 April. This was the ninth edition of this now can’t-miss annual networking event and exhibition and, once again, a team from Ocean Specialists, Inc. (OSI) was in full attendance.

And in good company—organizers reported a record turnout in 2022, nearly 3,000 attendees representing almost 800 businesses from 25 countries, making this unquestionably one of the most successful Offshore Wind (OSW) conferences in the United States in recent years.

Building a Supply Chain

OSW conferences in the United States are not what they used to be—they are much, much more. Five or six years ago, US OSW conferences mostly attracted executives from the world of finance, when long-term funding and insurance dominated the agenda. However, more recently, certainly over the last three years, we have seen the growing participation of environmental survey companies and marine project integrators, like OSI.

Today, as amply demonstrated by IPF’s sellout floorplan, the OSW community has diversified even further. A new influx of interested parties has entered the fray; developers, offshore service operators, system integrators, and cross-platform technologists, all rallying—alongside a host of other support service providers and subcontractors—to build out a robust and scalable supply chain. From the mighty nacelle manufacturers and vessel suppliers to the smaller regional firms offering anything from marine legal services to submarine cable connectors, IPF’s roll call was a snapshot of the breadth of expertise required to establish a reliable and self-sufficient industrial complex, one that is poised to significantly strengthen the US economy for decades to come.

IPF’s Top Billing

Conferences of IPF’s caliber are set to grow in appeal and stature as OSW plans in the US expand. In many ways, though, IPF has already evolved beyond the traditional confines of a calendar industry event. Yes, it is a three-day program of group meetings, networking events, an exhibition, and keynote speeches, but it has established itself as the premier meeting space for high-office government officials and C-level industry leaders.

This year’s headline acts included presentations from Governors Phil Murphy and Roy Cooper, sharing the stage with industry-leading CEOs, including Ørsted CEO David Hardy, Atlantic Shores Commercial and Finance Director Joris Veldhoven, Vestas North America President Laura Beane, and more.

IPF 2022’s VIP guests included United States Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm and European Union Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson, whose contributions were complemented by presentations from other notable domestic policymakers, including Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Chairman Richard Glick and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Amanda Lefton.

All in all, there were over 250 guest speakers, 76 sponsors, and 24 media sponsors ranging from sector-wide media outlets like Offshore Energy to more specialist publications like ReNews and Ocean News & Technology.

These credentials serve as the hallmarks of IPF’s influence over the years—IPF has grown delegate numbers, according to Business Network for Offshore Wind President and CEO Liz Burdock, by nearly tenfold since the inaugural meeting back in 2014. But continued engagement on this scale—be it from the public sector, private enterprise, or the media—will prove instrumental to the next phase of market development.

Getting Back to Business

The IPF exhibition hall, where the OSI team shared a booth with sister company CSA Ocean Sciences, was bustling from the get-go with delegates forging new alliances and galvanizing existing partnerships. Perhaps this sensor of vigor and purpose was in part fueled by a collective sense of “getting back to business” following a challenging couple of years, but the energy throughout the venue was palpable.

And there is much to be excited about. The public-private pledge, a genuine cooperative arrangement between state and federal governments, is inspiring. Throughout the conference, policymakers were quick to assure delegates that they would work in unison to create—and protect—the necessary market conditions for offshore wind to prosper in the US, underwritten by clear public goals, policy, and grants.

Providing such fertile ground will inevitably rely on another tier of partnership, one that will invite US stakeholders to learn from lessons learned by European offshore wind developers over the past thirty years. With decades of experience—good, bad, or other—this guidance is, and will continue to be, invaluable.

The Tide has Turned

All this optimism is undeniably infectious, especially for offshore renewable energy advocates who, for years, have grown frustrated by an assortment of roadblocks and barriers to entry. So, IPF felt more like a collective sigh of relief than a moment for celebration. The days of lobbying for the “winds of change” are over—the tide has turned. There is no stopping the offshore wind industry in the US now, especially not with prevalent events like IPF sure to rally the troops.

But 2022 has already shown how volatile the energy markets can be. The unfolding ramifications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine continue to poke at the question of energy independence. Offshore Wind is no longer simply an industrial pursuit designed to unshackle the grid from an overdependence on fossil fuels and create new jobs—it is and must be an intrinsic part of US national security planning.

Details of 2023 IPF, supported by host sponsors Aker Solution, the State of Maryland, and US Wind, are already confirmed. As is OSI’s participation. Baltimore, Maryland will be the place to be from March 28-30, 2023.