Biden Administration Outlines Path Forward in Ambitious Offshore Wind Push
On March 29, the Biden Administration announced a new ambitious initiative to boost US offshore wind power. This announcement builds off the president’s executive order issued within a week of him taking office that focused on tackling climate change while at the same time creating jobs in the renewable energy industry. The plan will involve multiple federal agencies and utilize millions of federal dollars and should be seen as the first of many government-wide initiatives to address climate change and to expand the country’s green energy capabilities.
The Department of the Interior, the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of Commerce (DOC) announced a shared goal to deploy 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind in the United States by 2030. According to the announcement, if the goal is realized, this is enough power to meet the demand of more than 10 million American homes for a year and avoid 78 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. The initiative will be led by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), under Director Amanda Lefton. Director Lefton was the first assistant secretary for energy and the environment in New York, where she led efforts to tackle climate change and promote offshore wind projects in the state. She will now be in charge of advancing lease sales and environmental reviews of at least 16 Construction and Operations Plans by 2025, representing more than 19 GW of new clean energy.
As part of this effort, BOEM announced a new priority Wind Energy Area in the New York Bight, an area of shallow waters between Long Island and the New Jersey coast. BOEM will publish a Proposed Sale Notice for this area, followed by a formal public comment period and lease sale in late 2021 or early 2022. BOEM also announced critical permitting milestones for the Ocean Wind Offshore project with the Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the project, putting it in line to become America’s third commercial-scale offshore wind project with 1,100 megawatts, or enough power for 500,000 homes across New Jersey. BOEM previously announced environmental reviews for Vineyard Wind (MA) and South Fork (RI), and anticipates initiating environmental reviews for up to 10 additional projects later in 2021.
The Administration states that in addition to the renewable energy these projects will provide, they will create thousands of jobs across the country and spawn a new supply chain.
Other agencies have vital roles to play in supporting the offshore wind supply chain.
Department of Transportation: The Maritime Administration announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity for port authorities and other applicants to apply for $230 million for port and intermodal infrastructure-related projects through the Port Infrastructure Development Program.
DOE: DOE’s Loan Programs Office will facilitate access to $3 billion in funding for the offshore wind industry through its Title XVII Innovative Energy Loan Guarantee Program. In addition, DOE, via the National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium, announced the award of $8 million to 15 offshore wind research and development projects.
DOC: DOC’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is engaging in data-sharing agreements with offshore wind developers, in addition to supporting more than $1 million in grant funding to study offshore wind impacts on the ocean and local communities and economies.
This bold, ambitious initiative should provide the nascent offshore wind industry with boosted opportunities for growth in the coming years, although the US industry is well behind its European counterparts. If the Administration can meet this “30 GW by 2030” goal, it believes it will unlock a pathway to 110 GW by 2050. Clearly, this initiative underscores the importance of offshore wind for the Biden Administration and highlights the important benefits that will arise for the offshore wind supply chain in the coming years.