Biden administrator brings wind into the sails of offshore turbine initiatives – GovTech

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(TNS) – As the world struggles to provide cleaner, cheaper energy sources, some countries are exploring making greater use of wind power as a key option.

The Biden government this year pledged to increase the use of offshore wind energy in the United States, with the goal of doubling use to 30 gigawatts by 2030, which could provide electricity to around 10 million American homes annually.

Wind energy is renewable, which means it regenerates naturally (other examples are solar energy from sunlight), and studies show that its cost goes down. The International Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organization, predicts that offshore wind costs will decrease by 55% to 5.4 cents per kilowatt hour from around 11.5 cents per kilowatt hour by 2030.

“That puts it in the distinctive range of natural gas,” said Elizabeth Henry, president of the Environmental League of Massachusetts.

Wind energy is generated with the help of rotating turbine blades and other devices that generate electricity. Onshore winds can be hindered by hills or buildings, analysts say, while offshore wind farms that operate in the ocean generally result in stronger, more steady winds and produce more electricity.

According to the US government-funded research firm National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the world's largest growth in offshore wind energy has been in the past decade. Although wind production remains relatively low compared to non-renewable resources such as natural gas and coal, the pace of growth is attracting global attention.

The global wind energy industry grew more than 53% from 2019 to 2020, and investments in offshore wind energy totaled $ 303 billion in 2020, said the Global Wind Energy Council, an international trade association.


The UK, Germany and China had the largest capacities in 2019, i.e. As other countries develop the ever cheaper and renewable energy source, the US could lag behind, the think tank Bipartisan Policy Center warned in a July report.

“Without a concerted national effort to deploy this technology, the United States risks falling behind Northern Europe and China, which are currently the world leaders in offshore wind energy,” the report said.

At a US House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on July 29, Rep. Ted Deutch, a Florida Democrat, said that most renewable energy technologies are made with rare earth minerals such as neodymium and dysprosium, which are used to make wind power generators – resources who have favourited China has a stronghold.

“The market for this is monopolized by China, and I hope the US and the EU can work to forge supply chains and recycle the environmentally sound development of these critical minerals,” he said.

In the USA, the development of wind energy is largely left to the federal states: They are responsible for most of the project planning and execution, and the federal government provides approval. Massachusetts is the nation's leader in the most planned offshore wind pipelines and has nine leases with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Some energy resource analysts say greater federal government involvement is essential to the success of the effort.

“It wasn't so feasible for a single state to get this industry going without the federal government,” said Dwayne Breger, former director of renewable energy in the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources and now the director of clean energy at University of Massachusetts Amherst. “Now we have the new federal leadership that will allow us to begin building the offshore wind project and industry in the US.”

President Biden's promise to double offshore wind energy in the US by 2030 would require an increase in steel and factory production and an acceleration in lease sales, according to the White House.

This year, the U.S. expanded offshore wind-eligible areas in California and the East Coast, and plans to lease at least 16 offshore wind farms by 2025, which the White House said would hit nearly two-thirds of the 2030 energy target.


Many proponents and opponents of offshore wind keep an eye on Vineyard Wind, which, if successful, would be the country's first commercial offshore wind project. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management approved it in May.

Plans for the project include the installation of 62 turbines 15 miles off the south coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It would meet 10% of the state's electricity needs when fully operational, or supply around 400,000 households, according to the development company. Most of the state's energy currently comes from natural gas and ethanol.

Over the course of 10 public meetings and calls for comment from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, more than half of the comments from residents, business owners, government agencies and the public supported Vineyard Wind. But some in the fishing industry say it will jeopardize their livelihoods, and a solar energy company sued the federal government in July for overlooking dangers that could harm the endangered species and drive the fishing industry in the area away.

The controversy is reminiscent of the Cape Wind project proposed in 2001. It was to be built about five miles off the coast of Cape Cod in the center of Nantucket Sound, a popular area for boating and fishing.

During its 16 years of project development, Cape Wind faced dozens of lawsuits and objections from landowners on the coast. In a 2005 New York Times commentary, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. cited the obstructed view of Nantucket Sound, the high prices for offshore wind, and the negative impact on the environment and the fishing industry as reasons for rejecting the project . reflect the common concerns of local residents.

The relentless legal process took effect: it delayed the project for years, and Cape Wind eventually lost its contracts. The $ 2.6 billion project was abandoned in 2017 before construction began.


The loudest opposition to the new offshore wind project comes from some members of the fishing industry. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management anticipates that commercial fishing will abandon the entire 75,614 acre area around Vineyard Wind. The turbines will be a nautical mile apart, too close together for some boats to navigate safely.

Hundreds of fish industry workers from across the country signed a letter calling for a five-year moratorium on all offshore wind developments. Fishing groups like the Garden State Seafood Assn. and the Long Island Commercial Fishing Assn. have asked for the same.

Tom Dameron, Surfside Seafood Products' government relations contact, said Vineyard Wind's impact on the line would be “catastrophic” for his company.

“There will be local overfishing that will result in targeting of younger and younger mussels which will eventually lead to the collapse of the fishery,” Dameron said.

Vineyard Wind has set up a compensation fund for fishermen, but Dameron says that's not enough to make up for lost productivity. He is concerned about the ripple effect that could lead to more offshore wind farms on the coast and less space for his company to harvest mussels.

Vineyard Wind is expected to start offshore construction in 2022, and the US has many more offshore wind projects in the works: more than three times as much offshore wind energy was planned in 2020 as it was in 2019.

Biden plans to initiate up to 10 more environmental reviews for offshore wind projects in 2021, a crucial step in moving them forward. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has 18 active leases for offshore wind farms in the US, all of which are located on the east coast and have been leased within the past decade.

© 2021 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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