The U.S. Should Accelerate Offshore Wind Plans

Last weekend marked the one-year anniversary of the most recent U.S. offshore wind auction. The auction for three lease blocks offshore Massachusetts generated a record-setting $405.1 million in winning bids. The Department of the Interior described the auction as a “bidding bonanza.” 

The offshore wind auction was a tremendous first step, but we cannot take the continued success of a new wind industry for granted. The United States needs a reliable and predictable road map of offshore wind opportunities if the new offshore wind industry is to truly thrive.

This is not to say that there has not been remarkable offshore wind progress during the past year. The Trump administration is embracing offshore wind potential. The review of the Vineyard Wind project will hopefully be completed in an expeditious manner and, in a way, ensures that future offshore wind projects are not held hostage by litigation.

Building massive infrastructure is tough, and bureaucratic red tape can be crippling, if not prohibitive. But this administration is committed to getting offshore wind right.

Likewise, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management adopted a new, regional-based strategy to offshore wind. BOEM is working to build a forward-thinking approach to offshore wind. If executed correctly, a regional path forward can reflect a geographic diversity of potential projects and develop tailored solutions to unique challenges.

At the state level, there is tremendous enthusiasm for offshore wind. In the past year, New York awarded 1.7 gigawatts of offshore wind contracts to two projects; New Jersey gave the green light for a 1.1-gigawatt project; Connecticut signed a 804-megawatt deal; and offshore Virginia, construction began on the first wind farm in federal waters. These are not the only deals, and these are not the only states making significant offshore wind progress. Up and down the East Coast, states are pushing offshore wind forward.

Needless to say, offshore wind producers are as proactive as they can be in ushering in a new American industry. Wind producers are engaging with other stakeholders to find common ground and build offshore wind plans that can coexist with other industries.

Last month, the five producers with leases offshore New England — Ørsted, Equinor, Eversource, Mayflower Wind and Vineyard Wind — released a uniformed turbine layout proposal. The companies are offering a common solution to questions regarding navigational safety, fisheries considerations, distinct transit corridors and the facilitation of search and rescue operations.

Advancements in offshore wind technology are stimulating progress and new areas of potential production. Last month, the world’s largest wind turbine blade was unveiled in Boston, Mass. Named one of Time Magazine’s 100 best inventions of 2019, the 12-megawatt Haliade X wind turbine will soon crown America’s coasts. Each of its three blades is taller than the Washington Monument, and each turbine can power 5,000 homes.

Progress in floating wind turbine technology will allow for greater geographic flexibility for future developments. The offshore wind industry will be able to tap stronger winds with more powerful turbines.

The growth in offshore wind supports jobs across America. Wind turbine technicians from Colorado, shipbuilders and heavy lift vessels from Louisiana and electricians from New York and New Jersey are all needed to build an offshore wind industry. Close to $70 billion in capital expenditures by 2030 will be needed, and more than 160,000 direct, indirect or induced jobs could be created by 2050.

To keep the momentum, the United States will need a regular and predictable schedule of future offshore wind auctions. While the last auction was a big success, eight companies with more than $286 million in exit bids missed out and were not able to lock up acreage. Additional lease auctions provide the chance to invest this capital.

The offshore wind industry is driving ahead, and a clear highway of regular and predictable lease auctions will provide developers with a clear road map of when and how to invest and truly unleash offshore wind.


Erik Milito is the president of the National Ocean Industries Association.

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