The Electrical Safety Standard Harmonization Report for Offshore Wind

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), in collaboration with the Business Network for Offshore Wind, published an Electrical Safety Standards Harmonization report late last week highlighting offshore wind industry’s best practices for electric safety for turbine systems, subsea cables, and substations.

The Electrical Safety Standards Harmonization report provides recommended solutions to harmonize European and U.S. standards, which will allow for safer electric systems for U.S. offshore wind facilities and provides information for U.S. regulators. 

The project was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and included a workshop in February 2020 hosted by NREL that laid the groundwork for this report. The workshop hosted U.S. and European-based subject matter experts representing offshore wind developers, turbine manufacturers, regulators, certified verification agents, and consultants with a broad range of skills necessary to address the entire wind plant electric system. The workshop hosts and other collaborators, including the Business Network, summarized the discussions and proceedings, while gathering additional comments and feedback from the participants to synthesize a robust, consensus-based report. The Business Network fully supports the effort by NREL, BOEM, and BSEE to publish guidance on electrical safety standards for offshore wind.  

“We are proud to support the establishment of electrical safety standards for U.S. offshore wind projects. We commend the efforts of the lead organizations—NREL, BOEM, and BSEE—and all the contributors and industry representatives invested into discussing, synthesizing, and writing this consensus-based report,” said Liz Burdock, president of the Business Network for Offshore Wind, “we could not move the industry forward without this work – it is absolutely critical.”

Experienced European offshore wind energy developers are beginning to make significant investments into U.S. projects. It is anticipated that 10 GWs of offshore wind capacity will likely be installed along the Atlantic coast before 2030. While extensive experience increases confidence that the U.S. industry will be successful, significant differences remain between existing U.S. electrical standards and European electrical standards. This has created concerns about potential hazards to worker safety. The purpose of this report is to broaden the knowledge base by developing and documenting a publicly available ‘record of expert opinion’ for application of relevant electrical safety standards in domestic offshore wind installations.

“To date, there has not been a comprehensive effort to compare U.S. electrical standards to European electrical standards. Nevertheless, the BOEM/BSEE have the responsibility of addressing these differences as part of a safe and efficient project approval process,” said Walter Musial, Principal Engineer, Offshore Wind Lead, at NREL. “The primary goal of this report is to provide near-term reference to help inform project design and approvals, and to help facilitate the development of more comprehensive U.S. industry recommended practices under the AWEA Wind Technical Standards subcommittee.”

 The publicly available report is available to download for those who are interested in harmonized U.S. and European standards, with a lens focused on electrical safety of offshore wind farms. 

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