Wind farms are America’s future. Here’s how to build them.

The Biden administration introduced formidable plans to scale up leasing for offshore wind energy projects alongside the Atlantic, Gulf, and Pacific coasts. In an announcement on October 13, the U.S. Division of the Inside said that it’s going to “use the perfect out there science in addition to information from ocean customers and different stakeholders to decrease battle with present makes use of and marine life.” College of Massachusetts Boston public coverage scholar David W. Money, who labored at senior ranges in state authorities for a decade, describes how this course of works.

Why does the Biden administration need to build a lot wind energy at sea?

President Joe Biden has set a purpose for the U.S. to obtain net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050. That may require an unprecedented growth of renewable vitality to change fossil fuels that launch climate-warming greenhouse fuel emissions.

The Nationwide Renewable Power Laboratory estimates that U.S. offshore wind assets might present over 2,000 gigawatts of generating capacity—practically twice as a lot electrical energy because the nation makes use of yearly. For context, the capability of a giant fossil gas or nuclear energy plant is about 1 gigawatt.

The Biden administration goals to have 30 gigawatts of offshore wind operating by 2030. At this time the U.S. has a fraction of that—simply 42 megawatts of offshore wind from 5 generators off Rhode Island and two off Virginia. (A gigawatt is 1,000 megawatts.)

Offshore wind has many benefits over land-based generators. First, wind blows tougher and extra persistently at sea than on land. Second, coastal and Nice Lakes states account for almost 80% of U.S. electricity demand, so offshore wind can provide electrical energy shut to inhabitants facilities and companies.

Lastly, offshore wind improvement can revitalize coastal ports and manufacturing facilities. A latest examine from the College of Delaware estimates that over the subsequent decade, offshore wind improvement can drive $109 billion in economic development. This implies it may possibly help the Biden administration’s twin vitality and fairness objectives.

Specialists say that with cautious planning, offshore wind has the potential to generate jobs and economic development in traditionally underserved communities. It additionally affords oil and fuel firms and their staff a possibility to pivot to a brand new clear vitality sector that shares some common skills and technologies.

What makes an offshore website good for wind energy?

Clearly, you want a website the place winds blow persistently at enough speeds. And it’s greatest if offshore wind technology received’t battle with different makes use of of the ocean, corresponding to fishing and delivery routes.

What’s onshore can be crucial. Port cities are important to help offshore wind improvement. The builders additionally want amenities that may assemble enormous towers and turbine blades and help the specialised ships that set up and keep them.

It’s vital to have an area manufacturing base and sufficient skilled or trainable staff to perform building, operations, and upkeep. And wind energy builders want prospects, so they are going to need to know whether or not close by states would require their utilities to purchase offshore wind electrical energy with long-term contracts.

Who decides which areas are open for offshore wind, and how do they select?

Offshore wind farms are massive, advanced initiatives, and lots of state and federal companies are concerned. For any website in federal waters—greater than 3 miles out from shore—the Inside Division’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) oversees and coordinates allowing.

BOEM has a mandate to drive vitality improvement in federal waters whereas balancing a number of makes use of of these waters. Over the previous decade, it has executed more than 20 leases and grants for offshore wind improvement alongside the Atlantic coast, from Maine to Florida.

When the company considers leasing an space for improvement, it seeks enter from teams and communities that may very well be affected, such because the fishing business, marine mining firms, environmental advocates, delivery firms, and coastal cities and cities. BOEM brings these teams collectively to acquire information, map makes use of of the realm, and talk about trade-offs. The purpose is to steadiness totally different ocean makes use of and determine potential wind lease areas that pose the fewest trade-offs.

What potential impacts are most regarding?

I’ve questions on how these initiatives might have an effect on marine ecosystems, fowl populations, and whale migration patterns. Scientists have studied these points in Europe, and U.S. researchers and environmental groups are additionally analyzing them.

Companies that regulate fisheries and marine mammals play roles within the allowing course of. With good siting and planning, I imagine it needs to be potential to shield actions like fishing that are the lifeblood of coastal communities and to decrease impacts on marine mammals and birds.

I additionally suppose it is going to be a missed alternative if the U.S. develops a clear vitality economic system with out addressing fairness and justice. Many communities depend economically on fossil fuels, which have powered our economic system for greater than a century.

For my part, these states and areas ought to obtain monetary help, workforce improvement, and coaching as U.S. reliance on fossil fuels declines. So ought to underserved communities and communities of coloration, which haven’t acquired many advantages from previous know-how shifts and have shouldered disproportionate environmental impacts from using oil, fuel, and coal.

Will we see the identical resistance to offshore wind as we did to offshore offshore drilling for oil and fuel?

Many individuals see offshore drilling as a menace to the atmosphere. They fear about occasions just like the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill within the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and the spill that simply occurred in October 2021 off the coast of southern California.

Offshore wind improvement can generate battle and require trade-offs, however there are 1000’s of offshore wind generators working safely and efficiently in Europe and Asia. I additionally suppose many native officers within the U.S. see offshore wind as a part of a brand new period of financial improvement.

Naturally, there might be political pushback, as is true for a lot of new applied sciences that are altering our nation’s established fossil fuel-based economy. However as firms begin constructing port infrastructure and hiring staff, comparatively low-cost electrical energy begins flowing and the price of offshore wind energy continues to decline, I count on each purple and blue states will see extra benefits than drawbacks in embracing this new business.


David Cash is a distinguished fellow on the Sustainable Options Lab on the University of Massachusetts Boston. This text is republished from The Conversation beneath a Inventive Commons license. Learn the original article.