Joe Biden’s offshore wind plan is ambitious and achievable

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Joe Biden's offshore wind plan is ambitious and achievable


The wind turbines are located in the Baltic 1 offshore wind farm near Germany.

The wind turbines are located in the Baltic 1 offshore wind farm near Germany.
photo: Joern Pollex (Getty Images)

If President Joe Biden is successful, the United States is on the verge of doing all it can on offshore wind power. Its administration announced Monday that it set itself a goal of obtaining 30 gigawatts of electricity from offshore wind farms by 2030.

Offshore wind has a long history of being right around the corner in the United States Heck, this same publication has written about it (more than one time!), only so that the boom never quite materializes. The country currently has seven turbines that rotate in the sea. Seven! At the risk of repeating history, this could finally be the time when the United States begins to implement offshore wind, harnessing a resource that could produce enough electricity to power the entire country. And Biden’s new goal – albeit a huge leap forward – is absolutely a possibility.

“Given that the program was established by Congress almost 16 years ago and there are only 12 megawatts installed in federal waters, going from zero to 30 gigawatts is ambitious,” said Jeremy Firestone , an offshore wind researcher at the University of Delaware, in an email. “Having said that, it’s also realistic, and the United States could do even more if there is the political will. “

Biden’s goal comes at a time when the appetite for wind power seems to be intensifying. Even before taking office, the Trump administration (!) Chaired a record offshore wind auction. representing Raul Grijalva presented a bill last year, that would codify a target of 25 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030. A number of states, mostly in the northeast, have set targets for offshore wind. In fact, seven states alone ranging from Maryland to Massachusetts have set individual goals this, in total, will take us to 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2035. Since only Rhode Island has installed any offshore wind farm To date, that plan seemed a bit aggressive before Biden’s proclamation. But throwing the weight of federal and state governments behind offshore wind could be the nudge needed to get the turbines finally spinning in the region and elsewhere..

G / O Media can get a commission

“The building blocks are in place for the offshore energy transition – the regulatory regime since 2009, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has leased the lion’s share of the ocean area needed for 30 gigawatts, and favorable states,” said Firestone.

The administration said it will use various measures to ensure the United States is on the right track as it catches up with Europe, where more than three quarters of all offshore wind capacity has been developed to date. Among these tools are the opening of a new rental area with world-class wind capacity, the improvement of ports to speed up construction, the promotion of loan programs for developers and the study of the impact of wind farms on fisheries and coastal towns. This could help allay concerns that have arisen in response to offshore wind projects and created obstacles for them, including lawsuits by wealthy Hamptonites and blockade by lobster boats from Maine. The administration also argues that it could be a job creator, resulting in around 44,000 workers joining the industry this decade.

“Certainly commercial fishermen will be affected, but if these jobs can turn into well-paying jobs in the construction or maintenance of turbines, then that impact can be mitigated,” said Doug Besette, a state energy systems expert. from Michigan, in an email. “Who knows the hard work in the Atlantic better than the commercial fisherman ?! Also, by 2030 climate change could already have a pretty severe impact on the coasts, will people be more enthusiastic about offshore wind by then? Probably. “

Some research suggests reinvesting project funds and revenues in local communities to ensure that the transition to a renewable economy is fair and that coastal communities have the appropriate resources to protect themselves against worsening storm surges and other impacts of climate change already baked into the system. Even that can be a tough sell for people who have multigenerational ties to fishing or lobster and whose identity is tied to those industries. Research also showed that some coastal communities, including along the Great Lakes, consider offshore wind farms as an industrialization of nature. Certainly some of these sentiments sidestep the fact that commercial fisheries already treat the oceans as a commodity rather than wilderness, but the fact remains that these communities need to be engaged from the start or projects may suffer backlash. negative.

It may not be entirely up to the federal government, but rather the developers of wind farms; Firestone said, for example, that “if a local civic organization after the pandemic returns to the cafe at a local dinner on the first Monday of the month, then the developers have to be there. … If people are treated with dignity and respect in such a way that they engage in meaningful dialogue – participate in this transition –this should go a long way in reducing conflicts. “

The need for dedicated community engagement – including with Indigenous groups, with whom Besette said he was skeptical the administration would engage fully given the entirety of American history, and others traditionally left out – will also need to be balanced with the need to go fast both to meet the 30 gigawatt target and not to burn the planet down. (These two goals, it should be noted, are not mutually exclusive.) The administration has announced that it will “advance critical permit milestones” for up to 10 projects by the end of this year. It would help, although the approval process is still Byzantine compared to most European countries.

“Permits are immediate hurdles, but the administration is now committed to moving forward on a few projects,” Firestone said. “What BOEM needs to do is increase its staff, as there is currently insufficient staff to undertake the review of all permits.”

A key test of how quickly the administration can go is those projects already in various stages of proposals and approvals. Earlier this month he approved an 800-megawatt project known as the Vineyard Wind that could be commissioned by the end of 2023. Besette and Firestone both said the fate of this project would be critical in assessing whether the nation could get on with it. the right way to achieve Biden’s goal.

“The great thing about offshore wind is that once you get started you can build a lot of turbines pretty quickly,” Besette said. “It’s best not to focus on how much offshore wind power we’ll develop in 2022 or 2023, but on how many gigawatts we’ll build each year in 2028, 2029 or 2030.”

So, okay, maybe we won’t know by the end of 2021 whether the era of offshore wind has fully arrived on US shores. Nonetheless, things seem to come and go.

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