New White House partnership aims to speed construction of offshore wind farms
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The White House and 11 governors from East Coast states forged a new partnership on Thursday to build up domestic supply chains for offshore wind farms and related infrastructure. The new Federal-State Offshore Wind Implementation Partnership includes governors from Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

As part of the announcement, the Biden administration committed to the facilitation of “timely and effective permitting and environmental reviews” for offshore wind projects and lease sales. In the past, permitting has been a significant bottleneck for advancing offshore wind projects.

Crucially, President Joe Biden also moved to ease another major bottleneck: securing the specialized ships needed to erect turbines as tall as skyscrapers in the open ocean. Projects compete for time with the few installation vessels available worldwide, which number just over 30. The US faces additional restrictions because of the Jones Act, which stipulates that ships moving between two points in the US need to be built, owned, crewed, and registered in the US.

The very first Jones Act-compliant ship built in the US is supposed to be completed next year. To hasten the construction of more ships, Biden announced priority financing for offshore wind vessels today. They’ll be designated as “Vessels of National Interest” by the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration.

The Biden administration is also developing an “offshore wind supply chain roadmap” to figure out what steps are needed to meet state and federal goals on wind energy. Biden plans to expand US offshore wind capacity from 42 megawatts today to 30,000 by 2030. That 2030 target should be enough clean energy capacity to power 10 million homes.

To get there, the US will have to build a lot more wind farms. An initial analysis published in March found that the White House goal would require building 2,100 wind turbines and foundations, along with five to six installation vessels and a fleet of other kinds of specialized ships. The US will also have to lay down 6,800 miles of cable to connect far-flung turbines to the homes they’ll power onshore. Getting all this done will require between 12,300 and 49,000 full-time workers on average annually, according to the March report.

Meanwhile, the 11 governors joining the partnership plan to work together with the Biden administration to tackle issues that cross state borders. Those issues range from building out transmission lines to managing fishing. Offshore wind’s impact on local fishing industries has been one sore spot that states will have to address as part of their push for clean energy.

So far, the few offshore wind farms in the US are on the East Coast, including much larger projects currently in development. But President Biden has moved to open up waters along the West Coast and Gulf Coast, so today’s announcement mentions that states from these regions could join the partnership in the future.

The Biden administration’s offshore wind dreams are part of a larger mission to slow climate change. The US plans to slash its greenhouse gas emissions to near zero by 2050, in part by getting the electricity grid to run entirely on clean energy by 2035.

There’s also growing momentum for offshore wind outside the US. Worldwide capital expenditures on offshore wind are expected to more than double by the end of the decade, reaching over $100 billion, according to a forecast published earlier this week by Norwegian firm Rystad Energy.

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