The Biden administration today announced a plan to get our flailing offshore wind industry off the ground—namely, increasing the nation’s number of operational offshore wind farms to more than one. As the announcement points out, it’s enough to power 10 million homes. The administration expects that the plan will add about 77,000 jobs between the industry and surrounding communities.
It’s a giant leap forward from our current state, with a concrete plan for swift action, but we’ll still be far off from realizing our potential to derive a substantial portion of electricity.
The plan aims to generate 30 gigawatts of energy by 2030, increasing the offshore wind output thousand-fold; but comparatively, in 2020, the U.S. had the capacity to generate 1,117 gigawatts from all sources annually. The plan would save us 78 million metric tons of CO2 emissions, which is a small dent in our annual average release of over 5 billion metric tons of energy-related carbon dioxide.
Last year, when Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) proposed a bill aiming for 25 gigawatts of offshore wind farms, Earther’s Dharna Noor acknowledged that the bill was ambitious for this country, but still left us far behind Europe. At Biden’s rate, in ten years, the whole of the U.S. would still only be producing about three-quarters of the offshore-wind-generated energy as the UK alone. The Department of Energy has reported that the U.S. has over 30 offshore wind projects in development, though the UK already has 40. And if Boris Johnson’s pledge is fulfilled, offshore wind will generate enough to power every home in the UK by 2030.
The administration has designated a new wind energy area in the New York Bight, a section of the Atlantic ocean extending inland near New Jersey and Long Island (areas where certain NIMBYs haven’t taken kindly to blights on their view). The Biden administration has also prompted a speedup for approval of a wind farm off Martha’s Vineyard.
Granted, it took decades for Europe to build up its vast wind network, which currently produces 80% of the world’s offshore wind energy (23.1 gigawatts) and employs over 210,000 people. The Biden administration’s plan anticipates playing catch-up, injecting $3 billion in loans into the industry, $230 million to ready ports, $8 million for research and development projects, and urging the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to speed along a review of 16 construction plans. That last portion is a reversal from the Trump era; a report from the Center for American Progress found that, during the pandemic, the DOI gave oil and gas companies rent breaks on public lands while slapping wind and solar with bills.
So nice to get the show on the road, a road plausibly filled with way more electric vehicles. On Twitter, Bill McKibben pointed out that the U.S. still trails the EU’s offshore wind capacity, “badly,” but added that the Biden plan “looks like the start of something big.”
Correction 3/31/21: A previous version of this article reported that Europe produces 85 gigawatts of energy from offshore wind, the correct number is 23.1 gigawatts. We regret the error.