The United States is trailing Europe in harnessing the wind as a renewable energy source, but the Biden-Harris administration wants to catch up. On March 29, they announced their plan to expand wind farms along the East Coast. Part of the plan includes fast-tracking permits for projects, investing in research and development, and providing low-interest loans and funding changes to ports.
The investment in wind will also have another benefit, according to climate advisor Gina McCarthy, who says, “This is all about creating great jobs in the ocean and in our port cities and in our heartland.” Wind has potential to help the administration keep its promise to provide good paying jobs, as it is more labor intensive than some other forms of renewable energy.
Recently, the administration approved the first commercial scale wind farm about 12 miles off of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, after a final environmental review. This was also framed as a dual win of clean energy and well-paying job creation.
According to the American Clean Power Association, offshore wind on the east coast has the potential to provide 45,000 to 83,000 jobs by 2030, depending on commitment, and will provide economic benefit and investment in coastal infrastructure. States along the East Coast are driving demand for offshore wind, by committing to purchasing over 25,000 megawatts in wind energy by 2035.
The Danish firm Orsted operates the wind farm off Rhode Island and has other leases on the East Coast. It has signed an agreement with North America’s Building Trades Unions (NABTU), to transition union construction workers into the offshore wind industry. These green jobs of the future will benefit from well trained workers, and Orsted is committed to create a just transition to offshore wind.
The Vineyard wind farm still needs the approval of federal agencies including the Army Corps of Engineers. In addition, there are a large number of state environmental and coastal agencies that must approve it, and the communities where the cables come ashore will also have input. While the cities along the coast want offshore wind to meet clean energy goals, there is opposition.
Offshore wind power faces opposition from the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, which represents commercial fishing. There is concern that the turbines, spaced one mile apart, are too close to allow commercial fishing vessels to operate, in addition to raising questions about whether the turbines will interfere with fishing radar. There are also wealthy, connected families who oppose wind farms that might jeopardize their property value or aesthetics.
Despite opposition, the investment in offshore wind is moving ahead. Numerous leases are already held along the East Coast indicating that there is interest in this renewable resource. With the federal government moving to speed up the process of federal approval, extending tax credits and low interest loans, and supporting funding for a just transition to renewables, companies will move in to take advantage of the positive business environment.
Have you considered the opportunity for offshore wind energy generation as a vehicle to create jobs or more as a way to mitigate climate change? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.