In what may be a boon to the oil and gas-battered offshore helicopter industry, the Biden administration has indicated that it is going all-in on offshore wind, particularly in an 800,000-acre area along the New York-New Jersey coast known as the New York Bight.
In late March, the White House announced that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), with the Department of the Interior, established a priority Wind Energy Area in the bight. Overall, the administration has targeted the generation of 30 gigawatts (GW) of power from offshore wind by 2030, enough energy to power 10 million homes and trigger more than $12 billion per year in capital spending on both east and west U.S. coasts. The BOEM said it was already moving on potentially 19 GW of this target, with plans to complete lease reviews on 16 projects. Ultimately, the White House said it is aiming at 110 GW of offshore wind by 2050 and to that end is supporting projects in the bight as well as others off the coasts of New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.
Federal funds could be available for related aviation companies participating in these projects. The Department of Transportation is inviting applications for $230 million of port and “intermodal infrastructure-related projects” that will support offshore wind via the Maritime Administration’s port infrastructure development grants including “vessels to load and move items to offshore wind farms.” The Department of Energy’s loans program office is making another $3 billion available in loan guarantees for businesses related to offshore wind.
In January the consultancy Air & Sea Analytics predicted that the helicopter fleet servicing the offshore wind market will increase by at least 100 aircraft valued at $1 billion between now and 2030. The global offshore wind energy infrastructure is serviced by as many as 40 helicopters, according to current estimates. Leading oil and gas helicopter companies are taking a hard look at expanding into the offshore wind market. Earlier this year, Bristow Group CEO Chris Bradshaw called offshore wind a “strategic priority” for the company, predicting that “new wind farms that are scheduled to be developed are going to require offshore helicopter support.”