The Biden administration has approved the 800-megawatt, US$3-billion Vineyard Wind project off the Massachusetts coast, the United States’ first utility-scale offshore wind farm and a key plank of the new White House effort to shift the country’s electricity system to renewables.
The 84-turbine project will be located off Martha’s Vineyard, near Cape Cod, The Associated Press reports.
“The approval of the project, which could be completed in about two years, came after decades of debate about the sustainability of U.S. offshore wind,” the news agency writes. “Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said the approval will create thousands of jobs and is a step toward President Joe Biden’s plan for 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030.”
The project “will create jobs that will support families, boost local economies, and address climate injustice,” Haaland said. “More importantly, it will create a new generation of clean energy jobs and leave a livable planet for future generations.”
Vineyard Wind “would dwarf the scale of the country’s two existing wind farms, off the coasts of Virginia and Rhode Island,” which produce a combined 42 megawatts of electricity, the New York Times writes. “The effort fuses the administration’s goal of cutting planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions with its promise that renewable energy will create new economic opportunities,” with the expectation that offshore wind will produce $12 billion per year in private investment and create 77,000 direct and indirect jobs this decade.
AP notes that the approval “follows the scrapped Cape Wind project, which failed after opposition from some high-profile liberals and conservatives alike. Supporters of Vineyard Wind have said the newer project is better sited than Cape Wind, which would’ve been closer to shore, and that it’s more in tune with today’s political climate,” although it’s still running into opposition from commercial fishing operators in the area.
“For the past decade, fishermen have participated in offshore wind meetings whenever they were asked and produced reasonable requests only to be met with silence,” said Anne Hawkins, executive director of the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance. “From this silence now emerges unilateral action and a clear indication that those in authority care more about multinational businesses and energy politics than our environment, domestic food sources, or U.S. citizens.”
The other “keystone” to the administration’s offshore wind strategy, AP says, is the proposed 1,100-MW Ocean Wind project off New Jersey.
Heather Zichal, a former advisor to then-president Barack Obama and now CEO of the American Clean Power Association, hailed the approval as a “historic day for clean energy and for our country”. She added that “now is the time to push forward on offshore wind, catch up to global competitors, and decarbonize our electric grid, so that the U.S. can deliver economic and environmental benefits to our citizens and combat climate change.”
“Some economists are skeptical that wind farms can create jobs on the scale predicted by the Biden administration,” The Times writes, since “the supply chain for wind farms—and the manufacturing jobs associated with it—is mostly located in Europe.” But “union leaders, heavily courted by the Biden administration, said they are optimistic that the large-scale projects could spur companies to manufacture massive wind turbines and related equipment in the United States.”
“I think it’s an important message that these jobs will be good union jobs with good wages and benefits,” Massachusetts Building Trades Council President Frank Callahan told the Times.