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U.S. Aims for 30,000 MW of Offshore Wind as Industry Urges Faster Global Deployment

The Biden administration has unveiled a US$3-billion plan of loan guarantees and accelerated permitting aimed at installing as many as 2,000 offshore wind turbines along the U.S. Atlantic coast and generating 30,000 megawatts of electricity by 2030.

The White House said the program will avoid 78 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions while creating 44,000 direct and 33,000 indirect jobs, the New York Times reports.

“We have an enormous opportunity in front of us to not only address the threats of climate change, but use it as a chance to create millions of good-paying, union jobs,” said White House climate advisor Gina McCarthy.

“To help meet that target, the administration said it would accelerate permitting of projects off the Atlantic Coast and prepare to open up waters near New York and New Jersey for development,” the Times says. “The administration also plans to offer $3 billion in federal loan guarantees for offshore wind projects and invest in upgrading the nation’s ports to support wind construction.”

The news lands in the same week that two separate reports had the global wind industry installing nearly a terawatt (that would be a million million watts) of new capacity by 2030, but still falling short of the deployment rate required to deliver net-zero emissions by mid-century. 

Analysts at Wood Mackenzie reported Monday that China could install 408 gigawatts of new wind output by 2030, Reuters writes, followed by Europe at 248 GW, the Asia Pacific region outside China at 126 GW, and the United States at about 45 GW. But last Friday, the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) warned that the world would need at least 180 GW of new wind per year if the technology is to make its full contribution to climate stabilization.

“Our current market forecasts show that 469 GW of new wind power capacity will be installed over the next five years,” said GWEC CEO Ben Backwell. That means “we are currently on track to be 86 GW short on average each year.”

The U.S. announcement comes “as President Biden prepares a roughly $3-trillion economic recovery package that will focus heavily on infrastructure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and tackle climate change, an effort he has framed as a jobs initiative,” the Times writes. “As part of the announcement, the administration designated an area of shallow water between Long Island and the New Jersey coast as a priority offshore wind area, a first step before issuing new leases to wind developers.”

Earlier in the month, as well, the administration approved an environmental review for a wind farm off Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts.

Many of the biggest states on the U.S. East Coast have committed to install more than 25,000 MW of wind capacity by 2035. The 84-turbine Martha’s Vineyard project could begin generating 800 MW in 2023, and the Times says it’s one of 13 offshore projects currently under review in the region.

“There’s almost no way these Eastern states can meet their climate goals without a lot of offshore wind,” explained IHS Markit electricity and renewables analyst Rafael McDonald. “That’s a big reason we’re seeing this surge of interest.”

The Times has details on the development plans taking shape, and on the concerns arising for commercial fishing operators concerned about access to their catches. 

“Our fisheries are already more strictly regulated than anywhere else in the world, so it’s not just as simple as saying fishermen can just change their gear and go fish somewhere else,” said Annie Hawkins, executive director of the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance. “Fishermen understand the need to act on climate change, but they don’t want to be left completely behind.”