Biden makes push to expand offshore wind energy

Published on
March 30, 2021

The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden announced on 29 March a new national target for offshore wind energy development and new initiatives designed to achieve the objective.

In a White House announcement, the administration detailed a meeting between National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, and various state officials, industry executives, and “labor leaders” to discuss new leasing and funding for wind energy projects. As part of that push, the Interior Department Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced a new “Wind Energy Area” in the New York Bight – an area of shallow waters between Long Island and the New Jersey Coast.

The wind energy push, a White House announcement said, is part of Biden’s push for the country to build new infrastructure projects.

“The president’s order committed to expand opportunities for the offshore wind industry. The president recognizes that a thriving offshore wind industry will drive new jobs and economic opportunity up and down the Atlantic Coast, in the Gulf of Mexico, and in Pacific waters,” the White House said.

In addition to the new energy area, BOEM announced a new notice of intent to prepare an environmental impact statement for Ocean Wind – a proposed offshore wind project in New Jersey with a capacity of 1,100 megawatts.

Offshore wind energy has been a complicated subject for the seafood industry, with big projects like Vineyard Wind in Rhode Island and Mayflower Wind raising opposition from New England fisheries. The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA), an organization representing fishing industry interests related to the projects, has been critical of the projects in the past, and most recently lobstermen in Maine took to the water to protest a proposed wind energy project off the coast of Monhegan Island.

Raimondo – who, through her role as Secretary of Commerce, controls NOAA – said the wind energy process will include input from all stakeholders.

“The Commerce Department is committed to innovative partnerships that advance the best science and data to ensure the development of offshore wind is transparent and inclusive of all stakeholders,” she said. “We look forward to engaging the public and private sectors to invest in clean energy solutions, like offshore wind, that will contribute to our whole-of-government approach to combat the climate crisis and create high-paying, high-skilled American jobs.”

As part of the new push by the Biden administration, NOAA’s Northeast Sea Grant programs released a request for USD 1 million (EUR 853,542) in grant funding to improve the understanding of wind’s impacts on stakeholders, “including fishing and coastal communities.”

That number, RODA said, is “paltry” compared to the USD 4 billion (EUR 3.4 billion) that was promised to help fund offshore wind development.

“Funding for science to truly understand the ecological and economic impacts of offshore wind is something all coastal communities desperately need, but a one-time, USD 1 million [EUR 850,000] grant in only one region of the country is an ineffective attempt to pay lip-service to the coastal communities that will experience significant impacts from the industrialization of their shorelines for decades to come,” RODA said. “This concession ignores the needs and economic realities of fishing communities, especially those outside of the Northeast, leaving them without a seat at the table where decisions about our exclusive economic zone are being made.”

RODA said the list of collaborators chosen to work on the offshore wind project doesn’t include fishing experts.

“We are disappointed in today’s announcement and hope that President Biden and his cabinet will prioritize policies that are co-developed with fishermen and other coastal industry leaders in the future,” RODA said.  

Photo courtesy of archna nautiyal/Shutterstock

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