Offshore Wind Power, Eastern USA

Construction work underway at the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project, located 27 miles off the coast of Virginia Beach. DOMINION ENERGY

Thanks to Yale e360:

On U.S. East Coast, Has Offshore Wind’s Moment Finally Arrived?

After years of false starts, offshore wind is poised to take off along the East Coast. Commitments by states to purchase renewable power, support from the Biden administration, and billions in new investment are all contributing to the emergence of this fledgling industry.

The Block Island Wind Farm off the Rhode Island coast was the first commercial offshore wind farm in the U.S. when it became operational in 2016. DON EMMERT/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

About 60 miles east of New York’s Montauk Point, a 128,000-acre expanse of the Atlantic Ocean is expected to produce enough electricity to power around 850,000 homes when it’s populated with wind turbines and connected to the onshore grid in the next few years.

Fifteen miles off Atlantic City, New Jersey, another windy swath of ocean is due to start generating enough power for some 500,000 homes when a forest of 850-foot-high turbines start turning there in 2024.

And off the Virginia coast some 200 miles to the south, a utility-led offshore wind project is scheduled to produce carbon-free power equivalent to taking 1 million cars off the road when it is complete in 2026.

The fledgling U.S. offshore wind industry is finally poised to become a commercial reality off the northeast and mid-Atlantic coasts within the next five years, thanks to robust commitments to buy its power from seven coastal states, new support from the Biden administration, and billions of dollars in investment by an industry that sees a huge market for electric power in Eastern states.

New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maryland have together committed, through legislation or executive action, to buying about 30,000 megawatts (MW) of offshore electricity by 2035 — enough to power roughly 20 million homes, according to the American Clean Power Association (ACPA), which advocates for renewable energy. Projects totaling 11,000 MW have been awarded so far.

Today, the East Coast offshore wind industry has only two small pilot projects, one with five turbines off Rhode Island and another with two turbines off Virginia. But after years of false starts, citizen opposition, and state and federal regulatory hurdles that left it decades behind its European counterparts, the U.S. offshore wind industry is set to take off as East Coast states and the federal government step up efforts to boost production of carbon-free electricity.

“Close to 20 years ago, we started pushing the idea of offshore wind, and here we are. It’s getting closer and closer to a reality,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club and a long-time advocate for the industry. The current wave of developers includes Denmark’s Orsted, which is investing in the East Coast because of its reliable supply of wind, its proximity to populous markets, and its relatively shallow seabed that eases construction of turbine towers.

“There is a huge electricity demand from major cities, continuous wind speeds offshore, and a shallow seabed which is ideal for installing turbines,” said Gabriel Martinez, a spokesman for the company. “Those factors, combined with support from state governments, have created an attractive environment for offshore wind developers to enter the U.S. market.“

Investment by companies like Orsted is expected to create about 38,000 direct and indirect jobs in development and construction just in the New York-New Jersey area until 2030, according to a 2020 study by Wood Mackenzie, a global consultant. An additional 5,800 jobs a year will be created in operations and maintenance between 2025 and 2055, the study said. It projected an even bigger economic boost in the future when the industry develops ocean areas off the Carolinas, the Gulf of Maine, and, eventually, California.

Some turbines and other components will be made in the U.S. as the first wind farms are built, and the amount of domestically produced equipment will increase as the U.S. supply chain responds to growing demand, according to the ACPA…

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