Offshore wind energy can help achieve energy dominance — if given the chance
The Trump administration has promised an “America First” energy strategy and touted a path to energy dominance. Over the past several years, offshore wind energy has been an exciting part of this agenda. However, recent actions by the Department of Interior (DOI) have left the industry, and those workers who will benefit from the multi-million-dollar investment in offshore wind, wondering which way the wind is blowing.
President Trump’s Executive Order 13783 clearly states that in the clean and safe development of our nation’s energy resources it’s important to avoid “regulatory burdens that unnecessarily encumber energy production, constrain economic growth, and prevent job creation.”
The Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has held multiple auctions for offshore wind development areas and issued over 15 leases, more than half of those being leased under the Trump administration. Those leases have added over $472 million in revenue to the U.S. Treasury. Since the beginning of this administration, DOI has been sending signals that offshore wind development was welcome in the U.S., and businesses planned and invested accordingly.
However, DOI recently decided to delay issuance of the final environmental review of the Vineyard offshore wind farm, located off the shores of Massachusetts. The project has already been through a rigorous regulatory and stakeholder engagement process. A delay now, after so many months of review from an administration which has pledged to streamline regulatory approval process, is raising a lot of questions about the administration’s commitment to creating more manufacturing jobs and its goal of achieving U.S. energy dominance.
Offshore wind offers the opportunity to create an entirely new U.S. ocean energy resource, and the benefits that come with that opportunity are enormous. The first 8 gigawatts of offshore wind are expected to create 36,000 jobs over the next 10 years according to a study by the Clean Energy States Alliance. The country’s offshore wind development pipeline represents a $70 billion supply chain opportunity for American businesses, according to a report from the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind (SIOW) with analysis from the Renewables Consulting Group. Tens of thousands of Americans could find work designing, building, and maintaining offshore wind farms. Over 70 different occupations are needed to build an offshore wind farm according to a study from the Workforce Development Institute. Struggling port communities up and down the East Coast have a chance at revitalization as they look to become staging areas for offshore wind farm construction.
Offshore wind also offers an opportunity for traditional energy supply companies to diversify and grow their businesses. The Block Island wind farm, the only currently operating offshore wind farm in the U.S., purchased its steel foundations from Louisiana-based Gulf Island Fabrication, a firm that traditionally had specialized in building offshore oil and gas platforms. Falcon Global, a pioneer in the maritime oil and gas industry and a current Louisiana-based liftboat operator, used its vessels and experienced crews on the same project. These opportunities for traditional oil and gas supply companies to expand into renewable energy mean that good-paying, blue-collar jobs will continue to exist in places like Louisiana, which has lost over 21,000 offshore oil and gas jobs in recent years according to Louisiana State University.
Let’s not forget, wind power has some of the lowest environmental impacts of any source of electricity generation and provides decades of zero-emission power.
Currently, there is just one offshore wind energy project generating electricity and 15 new projects are in development, with Vineyard Wind being the furthest along in the regulatory approval process. Permitting uncertainty at this stage in the game puts billions of dollars in economic development and tens of thousands of well-paying jobs at risk.
It’s critical that the Department of Interior establish transparency and consistency in the regulatory process, move forward with the decision on the Vineyard project, continue processing additional plans submitted by offshore wind developers, and finalize additional wind energy areas and subsequent lease areas that can be auctioned.
This administration has made job creation and business opportunity a priority. Offshore wind will help achieve these goals and put us on a path to energy dominance if given a chance.
Tom Kiernan is president & CEO of the American Wind Energy Association.