In the Nick of Time: US Offshore Wind is Poised for Enormous Growth

The East Coast has been described as the Saudi Arabia of wind energy. Powerful, consistent winds off the coastline make it an abundant clean energy solution, capable of supplying vast amounts of affordable, reliable power.

However, US offshore wind development has woefully lagged behind other countries. Right now, the US only has seven offshore wind turbines in operation generating 42 megawatts (MW) of power. Compare that to Europe and China, which had installed offshore wind projects generating over 60,000 MW by the end of 2022 with thousands more megawatts in the pipeline.

WINDS OF CHANGE

Thankfully, the tide is beginning to turn. To get a sense of demand for offshore wind energy, look no further than recent federal lease sales for offshore wind development off the New York and California coasts. These auctions generated over $5 billion in revenue, which will lead to projects that are estimated to deliver a combined 15 GW of clean energy—enough to power over 6 million homes. These sales are a big step toward the US goal of deploying 30,000 MW of offshore wind energy by 2030. Four additional lease sales are expected through 2024.

There’s a myriad of reasons why offshore wind is generating so much excitement. Roughly 80 percent of Americans live within 200 miles of the coast. Coastal population centers have the highest energy demand and the highest wholesale electricity prices as a result. Offshore wind can generate significant amounts of electricity close to these consumers, blows more consistently and strongest at times of peak demand, and ultimately can make a significant difference in lowering energy costs. Offshore wind prices can be locked in for 20 years or more, acting as a hedge against volatile fossil-fuel prices.

INVESTING IN INFRASTRUCTURE

A tremendous amount of construction and planning is already underway to build the infrastructure that’s needed, including turbine components and the ports, ships, and platforms to build these projects. Offshore wind taps into the skills of US oil and gas workers, who have decades of experience with ocean energy infrastructure.

We’re seeing this right now in Louisiana—a legacy oil and gas state—where the first American-flagged offshore wind service operations vessel is currently under construction.

The ship, called the Eco Edison, is being built for Ørsted, which is developing offshore wind along the East Coast. The Eco Edison will serve as floating housing and parts storage for US offshore wind technicians. The Eco Edison is just one of 30 offshore wind vessels the industry has invested in so far, creating significant employment and investment opportunity for American shipbuilders.

To reach 30,000 MW by 2030, the offshore wind industry is estimated to support nearly 45,000 jobs by 2025 and 83,000 jobs across all sectors. And by 2050, the US Department of Energy has found that the US could install a whopping 86,000 MW of offshore projects.

Offshore wind is America’s next major energy source, representing a generational opportunity to create jobs and bolster the economy. We have a long way to go to get there, but this industry is well on its way.

For more information, visit: www.cleanpower.org.

This spotlight was originally featured in ON&T Magazine’s May 2023 issue. Click here to read more.

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