A recent commitment by the U.S. Interior Secretary announcement to lease much of the country’s coastline to wind developers is being interpreted as a watershed moment in U.S. renewable energy policy.
“Taken together, the actions represent the most forceful push ever by the federal government to promote offshore wind development,” reports The New York Times.
Speaking at a wind industry conference on October 13, Secretary Deb Haaland stated that “her agency will begin to identify, demarcate, and hope to eventually lease federal waters” along eastern and western coastline areas, the Times writes. The Biden administration has already approved the country’s first major offshore wind farm off the Massachusetts coast, followed by projects off the Central and Northern California shorelines.
Now, “the Interior Department is laying out an ambitious roadmap as we advance the administration’s plans to confront climate change, create good-paying jobs, and accelerate the nation’s transition to a cleaner energy future,” said Haaland. “This timetable provides two crucial ingredients for success: increased certainty and transparency. Together, we will meet our clean energy goals while addressing the needs of other ocean users and potentially impacted communities.”
Wind development is a major component of the Biden administration’s “all-of-government” approach to tackling climate change and cutting fossil fuel emissions to 50% of 2005 levels by 2030. The administration has promised to build 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind power over those years.
“This is very big, big deal,” Clinton-era Energy Department official Dan Reicher told the Times. “This is a signal like we’ve never had before in the United States about where we can go with offshore wind.”
But the announcement is not a guarantee. After identifying acceptable sites to lease, Interior will go through a lengthy review process to consider possible impacts on endangered species, military activity, archeological sites, and local industries. Proposals in areas where wind power is found to be harmful could lead the government to reject a lease.
The projects are already receiving pushback from the fishing and fossil fuel industries, and Interior Department officials says they plan to take those concerns into account.