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Biden Commits to Offshore Wind

Thu, 04/01/2021 - 11:57
The five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm, the first offshore wind installation in the country, seen from Montauk, won't be alone for long. The federal government will advance new lease sales and complete review of construction and operations plans of at least 16 wind farms by 2025.
Jane Bimson

In a striking reversal of former President Trump's energy policies, the Biden administration announced on Monday a set of actions that would significantly expand offshore wind projects, including the creation of a new wind energy area in the New York Bight and the acceleration of the permit process for other projects along the Atlantic Coast. 

Along with the speeded-up deployment of offshore wind projects along the Atlantic Coastline, the Gulf of Mexico, and in Pacific waters, Washington predicts there will be a surge in jobs and a tidal wave of economic activity. 

The federal Departments of Interior, Energy, and Commerce have jointly established a target deployment of 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030, enough to power 10 million residences, according to a fact sheet posted to the White House website. Achieving that target "will trigger more than $12 billion per year in capital investment in projects on both U.S. coasts, create tens of thousands of good-paying union jobs, with more than 44,000 workers employed in offshore wind by 2030, and nearly 33,000 additional jobs in communities supported by offshore wind activity," according to the fact sheet. 

Reaching its 2030 target would also "unlock a pathway to 110 gigawatts by 2050," it states, "generating 77,000 offshore wind jobs and more than 57,000 additional jobs in communities supported by offshore wind activity."

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, an agency within the Department of the Interior, is announcing a new priority wind energy area in the New York Bight, waters between Long Island and the New Jersey coast where a lease sale initially planned for 2019 was shelved under former Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, a former oil and energy industry lobbyist. The bureau will publish a proposed-sale notice, followed by a public comment period and a lease sale, late this year or early in 2022. 

The White House cited a study concluding that development of this wind energy area could support up to 25,000 development and construction jobs from 2022 to 2030, an additional 7,000 jobs in communities supported by the development, up to 4,000 operations and maintenance jobs annually, and approximately 2,000 community jobs in the years following.

The feds will also advance new lease sales and complete review of at least 16 wind farms' Construction and Operations Plans by 2025, representing more than 19,000 megawatts of renewable energy. The energy management bureau will prepare an environmental impact statement for Ocean Wind, an 1,100-megawatt wind farm that would send electricity to New Jersey. 

The bureau is now reviewing the proposed South Fork Wind farm, a 132-megawatt installation to be situated approximately 35 miles east of Montauk Point, and Vineyard Wind, an 800-megawatt installation to be constructed 15 miles off the Massachusetts coast. It is anticipated that environmental reviews for up to 10 additional projects will be initiated later this year.

The federal government will also invest in upgrading ports, to support construction of the offshore wind farms. Achieving its targets will avoid the emission of 78 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to the fact sheet. 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will share physical and biological data with Orsted, the Danish energy company jointly developing the South Fork Wind farm with Eversource Energy, and expects to enter into similar agreements with other developers. The agency "anticipates that Orsted's and other companies' data will fill gaps in ocean science areas -- particularly in ocean mapping and observing -- in service of NOAA's mission to advance climate adaptation and mitigation, weather-readiness, healthy oceans, and resilient coastal communities and economies."

The White House also announced more than $1 million in grant funding to study wind farms' impact on coastal communities, including fishermen and others who make their living from or on the water. 

A statement from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority noted that Monday's announcement "significantly helps position New York State in achieving its goal of 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2035," as set in the 2019 Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act. 

Meaghan Wims, a spokeswoman for Orsted, said Monday that "Orsted and Eversource applaud President Biden and his administration for taking strong steps toward realizing the tremendous potential of offshore wind energy to power the nation's economic recovery. As the nation's leading offshore wind developers, we know firsthand of the critical role that offshore wind will play in creating thousands of good-paying local jobs and revitalizing our port infrastructure."

Conservation and labor groups also applauded the announcement. Mariah Dignan, the Long Island organizer for Climate Jobs NY, said the Biden administration "is acting with urgency to tackle the climate crisis and help kickstart a green economic recovery. This is a crucial step forward for New York. With these new wind energy areas off Long Island's coast, we are at the center of the emerging offshore wind industry. We must make sure these projects continue to move forward and ensure this once-in-a-generation opportunity creates family-sustaining, union jobs for New Yorkers."

Bonnie Brady, executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, had a different reaction to the announcement. The Biden administration is "giving the kiss-off to an entire industry that feeds our nation," the Montauk resident said, questioning wind farms' effectiveness and predicting negative consequences to "industrializing" the ocean. 

"All I know is, we should have a seat at the table and should be part of any energy policy," she said, "because as the traditional historical stakeholder -- our industry is about 400 years old -- why is sustainability and wild seafood production by some of the hardest-working Americans I know suddenly being thrown aside for foreign-owned energy companies and workers? What about our jobs?"


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