WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Monday announced a plan to vastly expand the use of offshore wind power along the East Coast, aiming to tap a potentially huge new source of renewable energy that has so far struggled to gain a foothold in the United States.
The plan sets a goal of deploying 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind turbines in coastal waters nationwide by 2030, enough to power 10 million homes. To help meet that target, the administration said it would accelerate permitting of projects off the Atlantic Coast and prepare to open up waters near New York and New Jersey for development. The administration also plans to offer $3 billion in federal loan guarantees for offshore wind projects and invest in upgrading the nation’s ports to support wind construction.
The moves come as President Biden prepares a roughly $3 trillion economic recovery package that will focus heavily on infrastructure to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and tackle climate change, an effort he has framed as a jobs initiative. Officials made a similar case on Monday, saying offshore wind deployment would create 44,000 new jobs directly in the offshore wind sector, such as building and installing turbines, as well as 33,000 new indirect jobs.
“We have an enormous opportunity in front of us to not only address the threats of climate change, but use it as a chance to create millions of good-paying, union jobs,” said Gina McCarthy, the White House national climate adviser.
As part of the announcement, the administration designated an area of shallow water between Long Island and the New Jersey coast as a priority offshore wind area, a first step before issuing new leases to wind developers. New York and New Jersey have committed to procuring a combined 16,500 megawatts of new offshore wind power by 2035 to help meet their targets for cutting global warming emissions.
This month, the Biden administration took a key step in approving an environmental review for the nation’s first large-scale offshore wind farm, off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, a project that had faced repeated delays under the Trump administration. The proposal for 84 large wind turbines with 800 megawatts of electric generating capacity is slated to come online by 2023.
Vineyard Wind is one of 13 offshore wind projects along the East Coast under some form of federal review, and the Interior Department has estimated that as many as 2,000 turbines could be rotating in the Atlantic Ocean by 2030. The White House on Monday said the offshore wind plan would avoid 78 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
Republicans said they were skeptical of Mr. Biden’s promise of “green jobs.” They have criticized his earlier moves to suspend new oil and gas leases and revoke permits for the Keystone XL pipeline, claiming those moves were responsible for killing jobs in their states.
“Here we go again with the promise of ‘green jobs,’” said Thomas J. Pyle, the president of the Institute for Energy Research, an organization that supports the use of fossil fuels. “If the government wants to create jobs, they would do it faster and more efficiently if they just got out of the energy business altogether.”
Offshore wind has been booming for more than a decade in Europe, where thousands of turbines now dot the coasts. But the technology has been slower to take off in the United States, which currently has just two tiny wind farms operating near Rhode Island and Virginia. One of the earliest offshore wind proposals, Cape Wind, famously died after objections from wealthy residents in Cape Cod who considered it an eyesore blighting their coastal views.
That is now changing. Many of the biggest states in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions — including Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia — have committed to buying more than 25,000 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2035, according to the American Clean Power Association.
These Eastern states have set aggressive goals to get more electricity from renewable sources such as wind and solar to help address climate change. But they don’t get nearly as much sunshine as states like California, and it’s often difficult to find space for wind turbines onshore. That makes offshore wind attractive: While the technology is still more expensive, costs have been falling in Europe. And offshore winds along the East Coast are strongest in the afternoon and evening, when electricity demand is at its highest.
“There’s almost no way these Eastern states can meet their climate goals without a lot of offshore wind,” said Rafael McDonald, an electricity and renewable analyst at IHS Markit, a financial services company. “That’s a big reason we’re seeing this surge of interest.”
Monday’s announcement will allow auctions to be held for developers to bid on the right to apply for federal permits to construct wind projects in the area between New Jersey and Long Island. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will publish a proposed sale notice and, after a formal comment period, will plan on lease sales in late 2021 or early 2022, the White House said.
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