October 8, 2022 By Ramona du Houx Offshore wind has the potential to provide more than 2,000 gigawatts (GW) of electric energy in the United States — two times the present generation of the entire U.S. electric grid, according to a National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimate. The sheer size of the resource illustrates the critical contribution that offshore wind can […]
Offshore wind has the potential to provide more than 2,000 gigawatts (GW) of electric energy in the United States — two times the present generation of the entire U.S. electric grid, according to a National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimate. The sheer size of the resource illustrates the critical contribution that offshore wind can make toward an energy system powered by 100 percent renewable energy.
Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA), a non-profit group of elected officials who are working to solve the climate crisis, held a nationwide virtual press conference on offshore wind projects, comparing progress and highlighting its economic benefits while asking for more offshore wind leases for development and an accelerated leasing process.
EOPA has letters for New York, New Jersey and California signed by elected officials in their respective states backing responsible offshore wind development. Collectively, 340 elected officials have signed with more signing daily.
“Offshore wind has the potential to be the biggest lever that we can pull to reduce our emissions, address the climate crisis, meet our energy needs, and grow our economy simultaneously. It’s poised to become a $1 trillion industry by 2040, creating thousands of good-paying jobs, providing clean renewable energy, and spurring economic growth, Elected Officials to Protect America fully supports the responsible buildout of offshore wind for America and sees it as a key component to solving the climate crisis,“ said Dominic Frongillo, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA), former Councilmember and Deputy Supervisor Caroline, New York. “Even with the Inflation Reduction Act’s (IRA’s) unprecedented $370 billion clean energy investments in our security, health, and prosperity, we still have a way to go to meet the 50 percent emission reduction goal by 2030 that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says we must in order to avoid extreme weather and climate disasters becoming the norm. Offshore wind can be key in reaching that goal. We urge the federal government to increase their gigawatt goal and accelerate the leasing process.”
While the Biden administration has jump-started offshore wind development, infusing coastal states and the industry with confidence, their goal of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030 will easily be met with current offshore wind projects in development. A larger federal goal needs to be established.
Last month, Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order to ramp up New Jersey’s offshore wind goal to 11 gigawatts by 2040, an increase of nearly 50 percent from its previous goal of 7.5 GW, enough to supply roughly 10 million homes for one year. Now New Jersey is on track to be the highest offshore wind power generating state in the East Coast.
“Here in Atlantic City, we’re at ground zero with tidal flooding becoming the norm. Our children have “flood days” off from school – it’s so bad. The increased offshore wind goal to 11 gigawatts underscores the importance Governor Murphy has put on achieving his administration’s transition to a 100 percent clean-energy economy by 2050, and demonstrates his commitment to aggressively combat the climate crisis while recognizing the tremendous potential offshore wind can and will play,” said Caren Fitzpatrick, Atlantic County Commissioner, New Jersey, EOPA NJ Leadership Council. “It’s a huge increase in clean electric energy that will help power our homes, cars and businesses while decreasing our greenhouse gas emissions which will save lives and livelihoods. Now the federal government should increase its offshore wind goal to help other coastal states with offshore wind potential combat the climate crisis.”
Routine flooding near Atlantic City has increased from less than once a year between 1950 and 1960 to about eight times a year between 2007 and 2019. The country’s largest permitted project is Ocean Wind, 15 miles off Atlantic City, and will be barely visible. It will produce 1,100-megawatts when operational in 2024 and spur thousands of highly skilled jobs. Ocean Wind is projected to reduce carbon emissions by 2.2 million tons annually — the equivalent of taking 400,000 cars off the road — and provide a reliable and scalable source of energy, immune to supply shortages and price shocks.
The first New Jersey wind farm is expected to be operating by mid-decade. The state has scheduled a third solicitation seeking to build 1,200 MW in the first quarter of 2023.
In essence, the Atlantic seaboard could produce more than four times New Jersey’s current energy demand. With strong, consistent offshore wind and a wide, shallow continental shelf economical deployment of offshore wind off the Atlantic seaboard is ideal for fixed bottom offshore wind platforms.
Only California, which recently adopted a goal of 25 gigawatts by 2045 has a larger offshore wind commitment. California will deploy deep-ocean floating turbines, similar to those in Europe.
“Offshore wind holds incredible promise as a means to help tackle the climate crisis while also creating economic opportunity, and Morro Bay is uniquely poised to reap the benefits,” said Dr. John Headding, Mayor, Morro Bay. “We’re excited that CA will have the opportunity to demonstrate to other states the benefits of the floating offshore wind designs for deep water that generate power day and night, easing our transition off of dangerous fossil fuels. I’m proud CA just increased our goal to 25GW by 2045 after listening to communities like mine. Now it’s time for the federal government to do so.”
The current lease areas of Morro Bay and Humboldt County in California that have been designated by the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) are off of Morro Bay. Combined these lease areas will generate 4,5 gigawatts and power 1.6 million homes.
In California offshore wind turbines will be located in deep water on floating platforms as shown above in the underwater illustration.
Investing in offshore wind port infrastructure in coastal states is critical to opening the opportunity for offshore wind development. At least nine major component facilities are in development to make the foundations, towers, cables and blades used in offshore wind turbines across the U.S.A.
However, we must accelerate the transition to a 100 percent clean energy economy or the American public will continue to be subjected to oil and gas increases when the industry deems, not when is necessary. During a recent press conference President Biden warned the oil industry not to raise gas prices because of the result of Hurricane Ian, which cut production by only 2 percent. That little of a cut should have no impact on prices. But over the weekend prices went up in California and other states.
The war in the Ukraine also highlights how important becoming energy independent is for the security of democratic nations.
“In the 1970s, Americans suffered financially during an oil crisis because OPEC countries limited supplies and prices skyrocketed. It has happened all over again with new and old players. The end result has been the same with consumers paying increased prices, while fossil fuel companies make record profits,” said Sara Goddard, Former Rye City Councilmember, New York. “The faster we develop offshore wind as a major clean energy resource the faster we will ensure our security and independence as a clean energy economy. We must focus on energy independence from fossil fuels for our health and wellbeing. Our future and our humanity depend on it.”
From the West to the East coasts governors have recognized the huge potential of offshore wind. Already, 11 states have more than 35 gigawatts of offshore wind projects in their combined pipeline, and two commercial-scale offshore wind farms are now under construction: the South Fork Wind farm near Long Island, New York, and the Vineyard Wind project off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
“In November 2021, Vineyard Wind broke ground on the first project toward what the nation aims to be 30 GW by the end of the decade. Offshore wind presents a golden opportunity to fuel our clean energy economy and promote energy independence. According to the Offshore Wind for America report, New England could generate more than five times its projected 2050 electricity demand with offshore wind alone,” said Cobi Frongillo, Councilmember Franklin, Massauchusetts. “This dynamic clean, renewable energy sector will revitalize our coastal economy with thousands of skilled jobs while helping to prevent some of the most devastating effects of the climate crisis. Offshore wind energy is key to a prosperous, healthy, and resilient future; more leases should become available for development and more funding should become available to prepare our ports and supply chain.”
According to New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA) at least 70 percent of the state’s electricity must come from renewable energy sources by 2030 and the development of 9,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy must happen by 2035.
“It’s imperative that any responsible offshore wind developments include equity and equality. I’m pleased to say that is how New York is proceeding. Our Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act makes sure jobs for frontline communities in the manufacturing, development, and generation of offshore wind power and requires 35 percent of benefits accrue to underserved communities. It also supports the Biden administration’s twin energy and equity goals, said Mary Lupin, Rochester City Council Vice President, New York, EOPA New York Leadership Council. “I’m particularly excited about the Great Lakes untapped offshore wind resource with more than 700 gigawatts, representing one-fifth of America’s total offshore wind potential. Coastal and Great Lakes states account for almost 80 percent of U.S. electricity demand, which means this clean never ending energy can supply electricity for the majority of Americans by powering our major population centers.”
New York is a member of the Great Lakes Offshore Wind Energy Consortium, which supports the efficient and responsible review of proposed offshore wind energy projects in the Great Lakes. With developments possible for the Great Lakes, and other coastal states more permitting needs to happen along with an increased federal gigawatt goal.
For every development more jobs are created and economic activity increases. The U.S. Offshore Wind Power Economic Impact Assessment states that offshore wind is forecasted to create nearly 83,000 jobs across an estimated 74 occupations in the U.S. by 2030, with over 23,000 of those jobs being permanent, full-time jobs that will exist once the projects are fully constructed and operational. These jobs include electricians, welders, turbine technicians, longshoremen, truck drivers, crane operators, ironworkers, pipefitters, pile drivers, engineers, mechanics, scientists, and offshore equipment and vessel operators.
“Offshore wind farms have the potential to generate thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars in annual economic impact ranging from port development to construction, maintenance, and repair jobs, and supply-chain jobs.” said John Polimeni, City Councilman Schenectady, NY, Associate Professor of Economics. “These new jobs, including health and retirement benefits, would spur economic growth by creating more disposable income that will be spent in the housing sector and stores, restaurants and bars in the surrounding areas creating a multiplier effect that would benefit thousands more, as well as the increased tax revenues to state and local municipalities that can be used for further economic development in infrastructure and other projects.”
In 2020 alone, more than $31.7 billion of investments were made in new offshore wind assets in Europe.
Nineteen of the 29 states with offshore wind potential have the technical capacity to produce more electricity from offshore wind than they used in 2019. And 11 of them have the technical capacity to produce more electricity than they would use in 2050 if the country electrified homes and commercial buildings, transportation and industry.
As of 2021, there were only two operational offshore wind projects in U.S. waters with a total of seven turbines. The Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island became operational in 2016 with five turbines that generate approximately 30 MW. A second project, the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project — a 12 MW wind farm off the coast of Virginia—became operational in June 2020 and consists of only two turbines in federal waters.
Former President Trump’s executive order, which Biden revoked, stalled offshore wind developments. Now that the Biden administration has established its future in the U.S.A. it’s clear BOEM needs to issue more leases.
The future increased electrical need—
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report said, in order to save the planet from catastrophic weather extremes, countries must stop using fossil fuels. The necessity to have more clean energy resources will expand as we build out our electric systems to accommodate electric heating and electric transportation. That’s where increased offshore wind farms will be needed. America should start planning on more leases now.
Offshore wind power is also expected to play a key role not only in decarbonizing power grids but also in providing the renewable electricity needed for making “green” fuels like hydrogen for cargo shipping, aviation and steelmaking.
An analysis by BloombergNEF says offshore wind power around the world is on track to hit 504 gigawatts in cumulative installations by 2035, a tenfold increase from last year’s record numbers.