Wind turbines near Palm Springs, California, the US, March 10 2021. Picture: REUTERS/MIKE BLAKE
Wind turbines near Palm Springs, California, the US, March 10 2021. Picture: REUTERS/MIKE BLAKE

 Washington — The Biden administration is outlining ambitions to dramatically boost offshore wind power in the US by 2030, pushing to drive construction of projects at sea capable of generating enough electricity for more than 10-million American homes.

Administration officials unveiled the new goal in a Monday meeting with state officials, executives and labour leaders, as part of President Joe Biden’s push to counter climate change, promote renewable energy and strip the electric grid of greenhouse gas emissions by 2035. As part of the push, federal regulators took steps to advance the sale of offshore wind farm rights in Atlantic waters south of New York’s Long Island.

The wind energy initiative dovetails with the administration’s work on a new US carbon-cutting pledge aligned with efforts to keep average global temperatures from rising more than 1.5°C from pre-industrial levels.

“President Biden believes we have an enormous opportunity in front of us,” national climate adviser Gina McCarthy said in a statement on Monday. “Nowhere is the scale of that opportunity clearer than for offshore wind.”

The target of deploying 30GW of offshore wind power generation capacity in nine years would require developers to install thousands of turbines capable of generating hundreds of times more power than the two small existing installations in state and federal waters today.

Huge prize

To satisfy the goal, Biden’s administration will have to navigate competing interests — including those of project developers, environmentalists, organised labour and fishermen — while dedicating more interior department resources to vetting multibillion-dollar wind projects.

But the prize is huge — potentially luring more than $12bn in annual capital investment and supporting 44,000 workers tasked with installing turbines along US coasts, according to the White House. McCarthy cast the effort as a way to jump-start not just offshore wind development, but domestic manufacturing to supply it.

“We’re talking about massive turbines that are actually manufactured in the US,” McCarthy said during a White House event. “We’re talking about steel and cement that’s made right here. We’re talking about these special ships that need to install these huge structures that are US flagged and built in US ports.”

While offshore wind has thrived in Northern Europe, where subsidies helped fuel the ventures, it has languished in the US. That’s in part because it’s far more expensive than other types of clean power onshore, and US developers must navigate a phalanx of local and federal permitting.

“Although offshore wind is a much more mature enterprise in Europe than the US, I anticipate we will see much more development domestically,” Angie Gildea, energy and resources sector leader at KPMG, said in an interview.

Some of the new investment may focus on the Texas coast, where there are looser regulations and lower construction costs, Gildea said.

The administration is announcing an array of moves it says will support the burgeoning industry in the US, including $230m in funding for port infrastructure, $3bn in loan guarantees to project developers and awarding about $8m  to 15 research & development projects.

The department’s bureau of ocean energy management also is taking the next steps towards selling wind development rights in the New York Bight, a shallow stretch of the Atlantic between Long Island and New Jersey. The agency on Monday is detailing a new wind energy area for potential development in the region that builds on years of analysis and sets the stage for a possible sale in late 2021 or early 2022.

The New York Bight could fit enough windmills to power all of New York City, but it’s also home to some of the world’s richest scallop beds — a conflict that bedevilled agency action under the Trump administration.

The bureau also is announcing plans to begin environmental analysis of Orsted’s Ocean Wind project planned in waters near New Jersey. The wind farm would have a capacity of 1.1GW that could power 500,000 New Jersey homes.

Plans for 14 offshore wind farms are already pending before the bureau, which said on Monday it is seeking to complete review of at least 16 proposals representing more than 19GW of generating capacity by 2025. The agency is on track to announce its final decision on the $2.8bn  Vineyard Wind project near Massachusetts in April.

The administration’s initiative builds on a modest goal Biden announced his first week in office — to double wind generation in US waters by 2030. With existing wind farms along the East Coast providing less than 100MW of generation capacity today, the approval of Vineyard Wind alone would satisfy that target.


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