Offshore wind, an industry long dominated by Germany and the UK, is finally starting to gain steam in the U.S.

And yet the U.S. faces a unique set of challenges when it comes to developing this resource. Without any federal mandate, there’s an ongoing struggle with offtake as developers are forced to navigate a patchwork, state-by-state approach. While certain states, like Maryland and Massachusetts, have implemented mandates for offshore wind, the policies in other states are still evolving.

Developers of U.S. offshore wind projects also must parse through a complex web of local, state, and federal regulations that can prove challenging. For instance, the Jones Act, which requires that transportation between two points in the U.S. be undertaken by a U.S.-owned and U.S.-built vessel operated by a U.S. crew, will present significant logistical barriers — as the dozens of European ships equipped and crews trained to install offshore turbines cannot be used in the U.S.

These additional challenges means it’s even more important that players in the U.S. offshore wind market take into account the lessons learned in Europe. Principal among them is the importance of preparation — of starting with a deep understanding of all relevant applicable norms and standards, followed by thorough scope and interface planning, intensive onshore quality controls, and a robust construction schedule. On the water, any delay, no matter how minute, can have dramatic consequences. If offshore vessels sit idle, they can still cost up to US$400,000 a day. And because weather conditions are such an important factor, if you slip into bad-weather periods, a delay of a week can be magnified to one of months.

Many in the U.S. have experience with onshore wind projects — but it would be a mistake to think that knowledge smoothly transfers to offshore projects. As the industry continues to grow, it’s crucial that developers get the right counsel and do extensive preparation. If they do, the possibilities are vast; if they don’t, the consequences could be costly.