The United States has the technical potential to produce more than 7,200 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity from offshore wind, which is almost two times the amount of electricity the U.S. consumed in 2019.

By Ramona du Houx

April 27, 2022 

The Department of the Interior on April 27, announced that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will publish two separate Calls for Information and Nominations for possible leasing in areas that are determined to be suitable off the coast of Oregon and in the Central Atlantic.

“The Calls for Information and Nominations for Oregon and the Central Atlantic provide an important avenue to solicit information as we identify potential areas that may be suitable for future offshore wind energy leasing,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton. “Today’s announcement reflects years of working with ocean users, Tribal governments, and local, state, and federal agencies as we drive toward achieving the ambitious goals of the Biden-Harris administration to fight climate change and create good paying jobs.”

Lefton made the announcement at the International Offshore Wind Partnering Forum in Atlantic City, New Jersey, where she outlined the Biden-Harris administration’s momentum to spur a clean energy future and create good-paying, union jobs deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030.

The different types of offshore wind designs.

There are various types of offshore wind platforms. The ones in deep water float and are anchored to the seabed. They are advantageous for multiple reasons: deep water wind is stronger thereby generating more energy, they move with the ocean waves instead of being battered by them, and they are out of the view of residents on the coast.

Offshore wind established in Europe-

Europe leads the world with offshore wind energy platforms and has a total installed offshore wind capacity of 25 GW, with 54,000 turbines. That corresponds to 5,402 grid-connected wind turbines across 12 countries. Eight new offshore wind projects reached Final Decision Investment (FID) in four different countries during 2020.

Due to Putin’s war in Ukraine being financed from oil and gas export profits to Europe, Germany announced an “Easter Package” that increases their renewable portfolio. In it, is the definition of renewable energies as an overriding matter of public interest and public security. This will speed up the permitting of new renewable projects. At the heart of the package are changes to Germany’s Renewable Energy Law (EEG) to enshrine a new renewable energy target of 80 percent in total electricity consumption by 2030. That means doubling the share of renewables in German electricity: in 2021 it was 42 percent. The Government now estimates that a rapid uptake in Electric Vehicles (EVs) and the renewables-based electrification of industry and heating will lead to a total electricity demand of 750 TWh by 2030. By 2035 Germany aims to source almost 100 percent of this electricity demand from renewables.

For offshore wind the package envisions new targets of 30 GW by 2030, 40 GW by 2035 and at least 70 GW by 2045. To make this a reality the German Government pledged to prioritize offshore wind in maritime spatial planning, shorten permitting procedures and hire additional staff in the permitting authorities.

While the European offshore wind industry is a couple decades ahead, the United States has the ability to learn from Europe’s successes and mistakes.

Huge offshore wind energy potential in USA-

The United States has the technical potential to produce more than 7,200 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity from offshore wind, which is almost two times the amount of electricity the U.S. consumed in 2019. In fact, offshore wind could provide more than 2,000 gigawatts (GW) of energy in the United States—two times the present generation of the entire U.S. electric grid.

Over the past year, the Biden-Harris administration and the Interior Department have launched the American offshore wind industry by approving and celebrating the groundbreaking of the nation’s first two commercial-scale offshore wind projects in federal waters. The Department also held a record-breaking New York Bight auction and announced plans to potentially hold up to seven new offshore lease sales by 2025.

“The Biden-Harris administration is committed to supporting a robust clean energy economy, and the upcoming steps taken toward possible leasing off the coast of Oregon and Central Atlantic provides another opportunity to strengthen the clean energy industry while creating good-paying union jobs,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “We will continue using every tool in our toolbox to tackle the climate crisis, reduce our emissions to reach President Biden’s bold goals, and advance environmental justice.”

Scheduled to publish in the Federal Register on April 29, each Call will initiate a separate comment period during which the public can submit relevant information on site conditions, marine resources, and ocean uses near or within the Call Areas. Concurrently, wind energy companies can nominate specific areas they would like to see offered for leasing.

These Calls come after robust engagement with stakeholder organizations, ocean users, federal agencies, states, Tribal governments and other parties to identify conflicts and engage early in the process as BOEM seeks to advance offshore wind in areas of least impact. This next step in the process allows BOEM to obtain information from and engage with ocean users and stakeholders as the bureau seeks to identify areas of least conflict for offshore leasing and wind energy development. This information will be used to significantly narrow the area to be considered for offshore wind development leasing as BOEM seeks to identify wind energy areas.

The six areas off the Atlantic coast comprising almost 3.9 million acres that BOEM is considering for new offshore wind but first is asking for public input on the proposal.

BOEM is seeking information on six distinct areas in the Central Atlantic comprising almost 3.9 million acres. The closest point to the shore of any of the areas is approximately 20 nautical miles off the Central Atlantic coast. Publication of the Call in the Federal Register will initiate a 60-day public comment period ending at 11:59 p.m. ET on June 28. Additional information on the Call, including a map of the areas and directions for commenting, can be found at BOEM’s Central Atlantic webpage.

The Oregon Call, the first action of its type off the Oregon coast, requests information on two areas (above) that together comprise approximately 1,158,400 acres. Both areas – the Coos Bay Call Area and the Brookings Call Area – begin about 12 nautical miles from shore at their closest points, off the coast of central and southern Oregon, respectively. Publication of this Call will initiate a 60-day public comment period, which will end at 11:59 p.m. ET on June 28. For more information on the Call, including a map of the areas and instructions for commenting, see BOEM’s Oregon webpage.

BOEM will consider public comments and commercial nominations in response to the Calls to analyze potential use conflicts before designating specific wind energy areas (WEAs) within the respective Call Areas. BOEM will then conduct environmental reviews of the WEAs in consultation with the appropriate Federal agencies, Tribes, State and local governments, and other key stakeholders. After completing its environmental reviews and consultations, BOEM may propose one or more competitive lease sales for areas within the WEAs. There will be multiple opportunities for public input throughout this process.

How far is the USA progressed with offshore wind energy-

As of today, there is offshore wind activity on all U.S. coasts. The East Coast has seen the most commercial activity, accounting for the two operational projects and all lease sales to date. Several additional projects are nearing the construction phase.

  • The Vineyard Wind project, an 800 MW project consisting of up to 84 turbines located approximately 12 nautical miles offshore of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and 12 nautical miles offshore of Nantucket—received approval of its construction and operation plan (COP) in May 2021 and began construction in November 2021.
  •  In addition, the 132 MW South Fork project located 35 miles east of Montauk Point, New York, received approval of its COP in November 2021.
  • BOEM is currently reviewing an additional eight COPs and intends to complete at least 15 by 2025. This includes four projects off the New Jersey coast, including one of the largest to date, a 1510 MW project by developer Atlantic Shores and two projects by developer Ørsted contributing more than 2200 MW; the first floating offshore wind project off of the Maine coast; and several off the coast of Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina.
  • On the West Coast, three wind energy areas have been identified off California’s coast with at least seven companies interested in developing floating offshore wind in the area.
  •  In Washington state, the Quinault Indian Nation has partnered with Greys Harbor Wind LLC to explore the potential of a 75-turbine project in their adjudicated usual and accustomed fishing areas.
  • Additionally, the Gulf Coast states and Oregon have formed intergovernmental task forces to explore offshore wind.
  • Hawaii has potential areas off its coast under consideration for development.
  • In October, the Biden administration announced additional offshore wind lease sales by 2025.
  •  In February 2022, BOEM held the first lease sale of the Biden administration, auctioning more than 480,000 acres in the New York Bight, which generated a record $4.37 billion in winning bids.
  •  Additionally, new lease sales are expected to occur in the Carolinas and California in mid-2022.
  •  Lease sales in the Gulf of Maine, Central Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and off the Oregon coast are also anticipated.