White House announces plans for massive expansion of offshore wind farms

The Biden administration announced plans to develop large, grid-transforming offshore wind farms along much of the US coast in the coming years, a major effort to invest in renewable energy and address the growing effects of climate change.

Home Secretary Deb Haaland said Wednesday the government will begin identifying seven major zones where federal waters could be leased for offshore wind development. Auctions could take place by 2025, a major step toward President Joe Biden’s promise to build 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, an amount that would power up to 10 million homes.

“The Home Office is setting an ambitious roadmap as we advance government plans to address climate change, create well-paying jobs and accelerate the country’s transition to a cleaner energy future,” said Haaland. “We have big goals to achieve a clean energy economy, and Interior hits the moment.”

The proposed areas span almost the entire east coast of Maine down to the Carolinas, the Gulf of Mexico, and the coast along Oregon and California. The plan is an aggressive move that would support the White House’s goals of cutting the country’s fossil fuel emissions by the end of the decade and achieving goals that scientists have long emphasized were needed to make the worst Avoiding the effects of climate change.

Biden is committed to reducing fossil fuel emissions – powerful greenhouse gases – by 50% from 2005 levels by 2030. The USA is a laggard in offshore wind, which is heavily used in large parts of Europe.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, a branch of the DOI, said the new projects could create nearly 80,000 jobs. The Associated Press notes that Haaland is also working to increase onshore renewable energy production, including larger investments in wind and solar power by 2025.

While the plans could revolutionize the US power grid, they still face tough battles. The New York Times reports that even if the sites pass lengthy regulatory reviews, there is no guarantee that companies will rent the space to build the turbines. The newspaper adds that offshore wind projects have also been the subject of lawsuits from commercial fishing groups and coastal landowners, and oil and gas companies may claim that the renewable projects could damage their own business models.

Interior Ministry officials said they plan to work closely with industry stakeholders to create “confidence” in the offshore wind energy plans.

The Block Island wind farm off the coast of Block Island, Rhode Island, is pictured on June 13, 2017.

Boston Globe via Getty Images

The Department of Energy also said Wednesday it would spend $ 13.5 million to investigate the risks of offshore wind development to wildlife, including birds, bats and marine mammals.

“Harnessing the incredible potential of offshore wind energy is an essential part of achieving a net-zero carbon future,” Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said in a statement. “In order for Americans living in coastal areas to take advantage of offshore wind, we need to ensure that the surrounding ecosystem is protected by coexistence with fisheries and marine life – and that is exactly what this investment will do.”

The Biden government only approved the country’s first commercial offshore wind farm in May – the Vineyard Wind Project, located approximately 12 nautical miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. The project is to generate around 800 megawatts of electricity that could supply up to 400,000 households.

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