Mar 29, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Biden plans to dramatically increase offshore wind energy development

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The White House rolled out initiatives Monday aimed at jump-starting the development of large offshore wind farms that together would power over 10 million homes.

Why it matters: The target of 30 gigawatts of generating capacity by 2030 would go well beyond the big projects already on the drawing boards.

  • Research firm BloombergNEF currently forecasts that the U.S. will have 19.64 gigawatts of offshore wind power capacity in 2030.
  • U.S. offshore wind is a massive resource. But it remains in its very early stages in the U.S. compared to Europe, with no big commercial-scale projects yet in operation.

Some of the steps announced Monday:

  • Plans for more Interior Department offshore wind lease auctions, including as soon as later this year for a region off the New York and New Jersey coasts.
  • Launching a formal environmental study of a project that Danish wind giant Ørsted hopes to build off New Jersey, which is a step toward permitting the plan.
  • Using Transportation and Energy Department funding to spur development, such as inviting ports to apply for $230 million for infrastructure projects to support the sector.
  • New R&D and analytical efforts, including a data-sharing agreement between Ørsted and the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The big picture: The efforts come as the Biden administration is looking to emphasize the job potential of its climate and renewable energy goals — and arguing they extend well beyond the coasts.

  • A White House summary of the efforts says developing U.S. coastal projects will "spawn new supply chains that stretch into America’s heartland," such as domestically produced steel.
  • Overall, the summary claims that meeting the development target would mean 44,000 workers with offshore wind jobs in 2030, and another 33,000 jobs in areas "supported" by that activity.

Between the lines: Huge energy companies like Equinor, Shell and BP, Portugal's EDP and others are already involved in various partnerships for U.S. projects.

  • Earlier in March, the Interior Department completed its review of Vineyard Wind, which is proposed for construction off Massachusetts that's likely to be the first big U.S. project completed.
  • The 800-megawatt project is a joint venture between Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners and Avangrid Renewables, an arm of Spanish power giant Iberdrola.
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