The US Gulf of Mexico has the conditions and infrastructure that make it a natural fit for offshore renewable energy technologies.
However, some marine renewables have struggled at times with profitability and reliability.
Excipio Energy founder Roy Robinson says his career in oil and gas — with pipeline and subsea engineering company JP Kenny and Spain's Repsol — has given him a different perspective on the potential of marine renewables.
"There is no single renewable energy technology that has an attractive rate of return without government incentives. That includes offshore wind," he says.
Putting multiple renewable energy projects together could help both the economics and reliability, he says.
"Combining technology together, you share significant capex and opex across the techs. The result is a significant increase in the rate of return," he says.
After witnessing what he describes as a lack of collaboration among officials in the renewables industry, Robinson came to believe that integrating technologies on a single platform could be key to making offshore renewables more profitable.
He has secured a patent for a floating platform that he calls the Excibuoy, which has hinged spar legs that can both provide support and act as wave and flow energy capture devices.
The Excibuoy acts initially as an offshore wind platform but can add wave and flow energy capacity, ocean thermal energy conversion (OTEC) systems, geothermal and other renewable energy sources from third-party developers. The combined sources could conceivably generate up to 30 megawatts of power, he says.
The Excibuoy concept would be able to generate electricity from renewable sources for nearby onshore communities, as well as for offshore oil and gas rigs.
The integrated system would make the overall energy supply more reliable. As some renewable energy sources decline at times, other may increase, which would address the issue of intermittency.
Excipio Energy is focused on the US Gulf of Mexico due to its high potential for offshore wind and optimal OTEC temperature profiles.
The platform's minimum depth is 100 metres, and it can be optimised for powering oil and gas installations in depths of at least 2000 metres in the Gulf, the company says.
Excipio Energy is part of the initial cohort of Greentown Labs Houston, a new expansion of the Boston-based climate technology incubator Greentown Labs.
Robinson also received a $200,000 phase-one grant from the US Department of Energy to study how to repurpose decommissioned offshore oil and gas platforms for what he calls “offshore industrial centres" with a focus on renewable energy and aquaculture.
Regulation from the Department of the Interior already allows for the repurposing of oil and gas platforms for renewable energy, and a strong push from Washington for greener energy could bring Robinson's vision for a multiple-use offshore platform closer to realisation.
"This alone will save significant time and expense," Robinson said. "The platforms themselves can host substations, power to fuel, or other ancillary equipment."
Robinson's vision for the US Gulf positions the region as key in the development of new offshore energy systems.
The Gulf has a large number of platforms that could serve as testing sites, and the metocean conditions that could help develop robust systems.
The number of offshore platforms has fallen by nearly 40% in the last decade, but there could be future potential for decommissioned platforms.