The Costs and Feasibility of Floating Offshore Wind Energy in the O'ahu Region

Matt Shields, Patrick Duffy, Walt Musial, Michael Laurienti, Donna Heimiller, Rob Spencer, Mike Optis

Research output: NRELTechnical Report


The State of Hawai'i has set a target to achieve a 100% Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) by 2045, and is well suited to become the first state to achieve this goal due to its relatively small load, high electricity prices, heavy reliance on imported fossil fuels, and favorable conditions for wind and solar. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management contracted NREL to conduct a cost and feasibility study to provide information to decision makers on Hawai'i about the viability of floating offshore wind to be a part of the 100% RPS. We used NREL's Offshore Regional Cost Analyzer (ORCA) spatial cost model to evaluate the Levelized Cost of Energy (LCOE) in the region surrounding O'ahu as this is the island with the highest energy demand. The ORCA results showed that LCOE could range from around $83/MWh - $194/MWh for commercial operation dates in 2019 but has the potential to decrease to $48/MWh - $109/MWh by 2032 due to maturing global supply chains, increasing turbine rating, and new technological innovations. These costs are expected to be competitive with global floating wind costs in the early 2030s. The strong wind resource, proximity to infrastructure on land, and benign metocean conditions can potentially compensate for the logistical complexities of installing projects in Hawai'i far from mainland supply chains if sufficient investments are made to develop ports, grid infrastructure, and workforce on O'ahu to support the construction and operation of offshore wind projects. In addition to the cost results, this report also discusses the likely technologies that would comprise floating wind projects near O'ahu, the existing infrastructure available to projects, unique conditions facing offshore wind in the region such as exposure to hurricanes and limits on allowable export cable capacity, newly developed wind resource data sets for the region, and local stakeholder perspectives on offshore wind.
Original languageAmerican English
Number of pages100
StatePublished - 2021

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/TP-5000-80808


  • floating offshore wind cost
  • Hawaii
  • offshore wind
  • techno-economic analysis


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