In a major energy policy shift, America’s offshore wind industry is getting a major boost from the Biden administration as the White House aims to reinvigorate a potential source of renewable, emissions-free electricity that has never fully taken off in the United States.
As part of a government-wide effort announced this week, the White House has set a new target to deploy 30 gigawatts worth of offshore windmills to power some 10 million US homes by 2030.
To meet that target, the administration said it would accelerate permitting of projects off the Atlantic Coast and prepare to open up waters near the Atlantic states of New York and New Jersey for development. The administration also plans to offer $3 billion in federal loan guarantees for offshore wind projects and invest in upgrading the nation’s ports to support wind construction.
The moves come as President Biden prepares a roughly $3 trillion economic recovery package that will focus heavily on infrastructure to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and tackle climate change, an effort he has framed as a job creation initiative.
Officials made a similar case this week, saying offshore wind deployment would create 44,000 new jobs directly in the offshore wind sector, such as building and installing turbines, as well as 33,000 new indirect jobs.
“We have an enormous opportunity in front of us to not only address the threats of climate change, but use it as a chance to create millions of good-paying, union jobs,” Gina McCarthy, the White House national climate adviser, said in a statement reported by US media. “Nowhere is the scale of that opportunity clearer than for offshore wind.”
Offshore wind energy has been booming in northern Europe for years, but the renewable technology has been slower to take off in the United States, where only two small offshore wind farms operate off the coasts of Rhode Island and Virginia.
But the US has plenty of experience with wind energy on land. Last year, more than 8 percent of US electricity generation came from land-based wind farms, according to US Energy Information Administration data.
Now, the customer base for offshore sources has started to grow. According to the American Clean Power Association, some of the biggest states in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions – including Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia – have committed to buying more than 25,000 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2035. Each of these states have set aggressive goals to get more electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar to help address climate change.
To accelerate offshore wind growth, the Energy Department plans to make $3 billion in funding available through its loan guarantee program, which will also target equipment suppliers and development of transmission for power generated from offshore wind.
Moving the U.S. toward renewable, low-carbon energy sources like wind, solar and geothermal is critical to Biden’s goals of zeroing out greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector by 2030 and from the entire U.S. economy by 2050.
The ambitious goal will require a complex restructuring of nearly all aspects of American life, especially energy consumption and production.
Earlier this month, the Biden administration took a key step in approving an environmental review for the nation’s first large-scale offshore wind farm, off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, a project that had faced repeated delays under the Trump administration. The proposal for 84 large wind turbines with 800 megawatts of electric generating capacity is slated to come online by 2023.
The White House’s push to ramp up offshore wind was quickly praised by environmental groups and climate hawks in Congress. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., told NBC news that the US would “benefit tremendously” from the Biden administration’s commitment to clean energy such as wind.
“The positive contrast with the Trump administration couldn’t be more obvious,” Grijalva said.