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EarthTalk - Has the Biden administration been able to ramp up the development of wind power?

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Roddy Scheer & Doug Moss

Dear EarthTalk:

Has the Biden administration been able to ramp up the development of wind power (especially offshore) as promised?

Vera Wingate, via email

In 2021, President Biden pledged to cut U.S. fossil fuel emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2030, promising to build 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind by then, enough to power 10 million homes!

Several European and Asian nations have dabbled in offshore wind for decades, but the U.S. has yet to unleash its potential here. Offshore is preferable to onshore because of more frequent winds, higher wind speeds, lower transmission costs and more energy efficiency. Also, offshore creates many jobs. Biden’s plan could lead to employing more than 77,000 workers in and related to offshore wind by 2030.

Since Biden’s pledge, his administration has approved four commercial scale offshore wind projects. The first announced were the Vineyard Wind project off Massachusetts (May 2021) and the South Fork Wind projects off Rhode Island and New York (November 2021). Both projects are under construction and being built by union labor. This past July, Biden approved the largest offshore wind energy project yet in U.S. waters off the coast of New Jersey, approving up to 98 turbines, as well as three offshore substations to help transmit the electricity to shore. When completed, the New Jersey project could generate some 1.1 gigawatts which could power over 600,000 homes. It is projected to create over 3,000 jobs over its three-year creation period. This past August, another project off Rhode Island was announced. The project will have an estimated capacity of 704 megawatts of clean energy, capable of powering nearly 250,000 homes.

According to a White House Fact Sheet, the Biden administration is on track to review at least 16 offshore wind project plans by 2025. These could collectively power 6 million homes. By conducting thorough assessment of the potential impact on the environment, wildlife and local communities, the Biden administration is demonstrating its commitment to responsible and sustainable clean energy expansion.

However, the progress isn’t without challenges. For one, the intricate permitting process, involving multiple federal agencies, state governments and various stakeholders, can lead to lengthy delays. Also, opposition from various stakeholders, including local communities and environmental groups, can impede progress. Other issues include the high upfront costs and the low availability of offshore wind sites.

But the Biden administration is trying to speed up the process. They are streamlining the permitting process, making it quicker for offshore wind projects to gain approval. They are conducting thorough environmental assessments. They are investing in research to improve technology and reduce costs (they announced $72 million in funding to support research in September 2023). And they are providing financial incentives to encourage private investment in offshore projects. Overall, the administration is focused on reaching its clean energy goals and is making the most of offshore wind to help get there.


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