Offshore Wind Progress Signals New Era for American Renewable Energy and the New Economy
June 8th marks World Oceans Day, an annual global celebration raising awareness that together we can – and will – protect and restore our shared ocean and everything it sustains while addressing the climate crisis. The urgent need to reduce carbon emissions and transition to cleaner sources of energy is evidenced by the scientific community daily, most recently with news that the level of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere reached its highest levels ever recorded. Fortunately, we already have an impactful and sustainable tool at our disposal to protect our oceans and achieve a cleaner energy future: Offshore wind, America’s next clean energy resource.
Harnessing the extensive offshore wind resources that blow across America’s oceans and deploying them at scale is one solution to mitigate the negative effects of climate change and decarbonize our energy systems. With national goals to achieve 30 gigawatts (GW) of deployed offshore wind by 2030, a carbon-free electricity sector by 2035, and a net-zero emissions economy by 2050, U.S. offshore wind will play a vital role in driving our country toward the economic benefits that come with a clean energy future—and in the process, become America’s newest domestic source of energy.
The Northeastern U.S. coastline has been nicknamed “The Saudi Arabia of Wind” due to its untapped potential to transform America’s domestic energy production and boost our economy in ways previously unimagined. That vision became one step closer to reality earlier this year with a record-shattering offshore wind auction in the New York Bight. Winning bids for the six lease areas of the New York Bight totaled $4.37 billion, demonstrating the interest, confidence, and demand for this new industry, ushering in a new era for offshore wind as a promising player in America’s clean energy economy and decarbonization strategy. The White House rightly touted the New York Bight lease sale results, noting that the sale included “innovative lease stipulations [that] will promote projects built with union labor and Made in America materials, and.…will generate clean electricity to power millions of homes.”
Utilizing our nation’s untapped offshore wind resources will not only be beneficial to our planet, but it will create thousands of high-skilled U.S. jobs and deliver reliable, clean energy to more Americans. The lease areas in the New York Bight alone could accommodate up to 7,000 MW of new offshore wind development – enough to power over 2 million homes. From an emissions reduction standpoint, these offshore wind projects could prevent the release of nearly 18 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year, the equivalent of removing 3.9 million cars from the road.
As offshore wind makes is mark in the United States, the economic impacts will be felt throughout the country – not just along the coastlines where the turbines would generate clean energy. U.S. offshore wind development will accelerate economic opportunities for American manufacturing, construction, and supply chains across the nation, along with prompting critical investment and upgrades to our nation’s ports which will serve as strategic hubs for the burgeoning industry. For example, steel sourced from West Virginia and Alabama is currently being used to construct the nation’s first offshore wind turbine installation vessel in a shipyard in Texas.
Growing U.S. offshore wind presents enormous economic opportunities for the maritime industry and Made-in-America vessels. Meeting President Biden’s offshore wind goal will also support the build out of hundreds of Made-in-America vessels and help bring back American mariners into the workforce in a new, renewable energy industry. Offshore wind development and operations rely on over 25 vessels per project across all project stages and the majority will be U.S.-flagged, such as service operation vessels, crew transfer vessels, feeder vessels, and safety vessels to name a few. Developers and vessel operators are already filling U.S. shipyards with requests for new builds and retrofits, investing over $1 billion in vessels so far. These job opportunities for American mariners will rely on the availability of a few construction vessels which only exist in international fleets and have unique capabilities to perform seafloor survey work, cable burial, and turbine installation. New vessel incentives could help expand availability of U.S.-flagged construction vessels to do this work and ACP welcomes the opportunity to craft solutions to further bolster domestic shipbuilding.
These job-growth opportunities signal a new era for clean power in America and for our new clean energy economy. An American Clean Power Association analysis about the economic impacts of future offshore wind development in seven proposed lease areas within the Outer Continental Shelf, including the New York Bight, concluded that such development would support 40 GW of new offshore wind projects, which would represent over $120 billion of clean energy investment. The analysis further found that realizing the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) Leasing Path Forward could create up to 128,000 jobs during construction and support an additional 48,000 jobs in operations and maintenance roles, in the supply chain and in surrounding communities during the life of the offshore projects.
The record-setting New York Bight lease auction is just the beginning. In May, the U.S. Interior Department held its next offshore wind energy auction for two lease areas in the Carolina Long Bay region. Offshore wind along our nation’s West Coast is on the horizon as well, with BOEM announcing last month the first-ever proposed offshore wind lease auction off the coast of California. This marks a once-in-a-generation opportunity for California to become a global leader in floating offshore wind technology. ACP supports BOEM’s path forward to conduct four additional lease sales through 2024, and we challenge policymakers to provide even more certainty to this new industry, ensuring that the American people benefit from its growth and job-creating potential.
For too long, the U.S. has lagged other countries in offshore wind development. With continued bold leadership, the U.S. can truly tap into offshore wind’s robust potential and advance as a global renewable energy leader on our quest to protect our oceans and achieve a more sustainable, carbon-free future.