White House pushes further expansion of offshore wind energy

Wind turbines spin slowly over cornfields in Warsaw, NY | AP Photo / Julie Jacobson



WASHINGTON – The Biden administration on Monday unveiled a new initiative to boost U.S. offshore wind energy, aimed at leveraging the nascent industry as part of President Joe Biden’s efforts to create new union jobs as part of a transition to a clean energy economy.

The administration has set a goal of adding 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power to U.S. coastal waters by 2030, a goal the White House says would require more than $ 12 billion per year in capital investment. in projects on the east and west coasts that would employ 44,000 people. workers in wind industry jobs. These wind farms could provide electricity to more than 10 million homes and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 78 million metric tons.

“The announcements we make today, I hope, will only stimulate everyone’s understanding of the potential of offshore wind energy and move this industry forward in a way that allows us to focus on the problem as well. supply chain, because we’re not just talking about erecting wind turbines in the oceans, we’re talking about massive wind turbines that are actually made in the United States, ”Gina McCarthy, National Climate Advisor, said Monday .

But the announcement, which also calls on the United States to reach 110 GW of offshore wind power capacity by 2050, did not include any plans for new funding for the industry, although it would open a process of demand that ports seek money to build new infrastructure. and provide loan guarantees. It also intends to allocate millions for research and development.

While the development of offshore wind in the United States has lagged behind the growth seen in Europe, the industry has pushed major new projects off the east coast. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced earlier this month that it has completed the environmental review of the Vineyard Wind Project, an 800-megawatt wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts, a key step towards final approval of the project that had been blocked under the Trump administration. .

And BOEM said on Monday that it expects further lease sales for project developers and will complete the review of at least 16 project proposals by 2025 that could add more than 19 GW of offshore wind capacity. . The agency also announced a new priority wind power area in New York Bight, an area between Long Island and the Jersey coast, with a lease sale slated for that area in late 2021 or early 2022. And BOEM will prepare. an environmental impact study. for the 1,100 megawatt Ocean Wind project off the coast of New Jersey.

The wind industry has argued that offshore wind represents a bright spot in the often strained relationship between the rapidly growing renewable energy industry and unions. The construction of offshore wind turbines is likely to rely on the type of manufacturing workers provided by building unions. While much of that supply chain is now based in Europe, unions and the Biden administration are hoping to see new wind components built in the United States.

“It’s not just the engineers and construction workers who install these turbines, and the technicians who maintain them,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said. “Think of the miners and foundries producing steel and iron for towers, and the foundations for turbines and legs and platforms for jack-up platforms, think of shipbuilders who assemble the halls of ships installation. “

Biden, who is expected to present details of his upcoming infrastructure package in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, called for eliminating carbon pollution from the power sector by 2035, and shortly after entering the White House, he issued a decree urging the Interior Ministry to increase the production of renewable energy on public lands and waters.

The administration predicts that the new 2030 offshore wind energy target will bring supply chain benefits, including $ 500 million in new investments in port modernization; one to two new plants in the United States for each major component of the wind farm; demand for more than 7 million tonnes of steel; and the construction of four to six vessels specializing in the installation of turbines in US shipyards.

The administration on Monday promised at least one new plant supplying parts for each new wind farm, which it said it would back with $ 3 billion of existing loan authorization from the Energy Ministry. And he promised the industry would provide “well-paying union jobs.”

The promise seemed intended to allay the concerns of labor groups, who have so far benefited little from the strong growth in other clean energy technologies.

“Where the missing piece at the moment is an agreement between these developers and the offshore wind industry and industrial unions to use [the growth] as an opportunity to really build a manufacturing supply chain for offshore wind in this country, ”Jason Walsh, executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance, told POLITICO last week. before the administration announces. “It is he who will fully reap the economic benefits of offshore wind at the national level.”

Yet Biden’s repeated emphasis on making sure unions benefit is receiving praise from labor groups.

“There is nothing louder than the president saying these jobs should be unionized,” said Anna Fendley, director of regulation and state policy for the United Steelworkers, a union of workers in the steel and factories.

But the construction of these factories to supply the offshore wind industry may be more dependent on private companies and state-level decisions. Michael Brown, CEO of Mayflower Wind, a joint venture of three European energy companies, including Shell, said his company offered Massachusetts an electricity supply contract that included financing a plant in the state to produce electricity. components, but the state chose a least-cost deal. without the factory. Brown says other states may take a different point of view.

“We have seen some states actively seek to speed up the tendering process,” he told POLITICO. “Offshore wind can be inexpensive and local. “

Norwegian offshore oil and wind giant Equinor struck an agreement with New York last year that will build a production plant in Albany, NY, to support a project south of Long Island.

Monday’s announcement also included a series of partnerships to support research and development, including funding through the National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium created by the DOE and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

The consortium will award $ 8 million to 15 offshore wind R&D projects focused on offshore support structure innovation, supply chain development, power system innovation and conflict-of-use mitigation.

The Maritime Administration of the Ministry of Transport has also announced that it will make $ 230 million available for port and intermodal infrastructure projects under the Port Infrastructure Development Program.

NOAA is also working with Danish energy company Ørsted will share physical and biological data in the waters leased by Ørsted under US jurisdiction – which the administration touts as a one-of-a-kind deal between an offshore wind developer and NOAA.

Despite the promise of union jobs in the offshore wind industry, the Biden administration will still face opposition from the fishing industry, which has criticized the Biden administration’s recent turnaround on the Vineyard Wind project. .

Anne Hawkins, executive director of the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, said Monday’s announcement did not address process, planning or scientific issues that have been raised by the industry, and included “essentially nothing” to the Peach. “You have to look at the existing ocean jobs and of course it’s not here at all,” she told POLITICO.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this report misidentified the CEO of Mayflower Wind. It’s Michael Brown.

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