But the announcement, which also calls for the U.S. to reach 110 GW of offshore wind power capacity by 2050, did not include any plans for fresh funding for the industry, though it would open an application process for ports to seek money to build new infrastructure and provide loan guarantees. It also intends to award millions for research and development.
While U.S. offshore wind development has lagged the growth seen in Europe, the industry has been pushing major new projects off the East Coast. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced earlier this month it completed the environmental review for the Vineyard Wind project, an 800-megawatt wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts, a key step toward final approval of the project that had been stalled under the Trump administration.
And BOEM said on Monday it was planning new lease sales for project developers and that it would complete reviews of at least 16 project proposals by 2025 that could add more than 19 GW of offshore wind capacity. The agency also announced a new priority Wind Energy Area in the New York Bight, an area between Long Island and the New Jersey coast, with a lease sale anticipated for that area in late 2021 or early 2022. And BOEM will prepare an environmental impact statement for the 1,100-megawatt Ocean Wind project off the coast of New Jersey.
The wind industry has argued that offshore wind represents a bright spot in the often tense relationship between the fast-growing renewable energy industry and labor unions. The construction of offshore wind turbines is likely to rely on the kind of manufacturing workers that building trade unions provide. Although much of that supply chain is based in Europe now, both the unions and the Biden administration hope to see new wind components built in the U.S.
“This isn’t just about the engineers and the construction workers that are installing these turbines, and the technicians that are maintaining them,” said Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. “Think about the miners and the smelters producing the steel and the iron for the towers, and the foundations for the turbines and the legs and the platforms of the jack-up rigs, think about the shipbuilders who are assembling the halls of the installation vessels.”
Biden, who is expected to lay out details of his upcoming infrastructure package in Pittsburgh on Wednesday, has called for eliminating carbon pollution from the power sector by 2035, and shortly after entering the White House, he issued an executive order pushing the Interior Department to increase renewable energy production on public lands and waters.
The administration anticipates the new 2030 offshore wind power target bring supply chain benefits, including $500 million in new port upgrade investments; one to two new U.S. factories for each major wind farm component; demand for more than 7 million tons of steel; and the construction of four to six specialized turbine installation vessels in U.S. shipyards.
The administration promised Monday at least one new factory supplying parts for each new wind farm, which it said it would back with $3 billion in existing loan authority from the Energy Department. And it promised that the industry would provide “good-paying union jobs.”
That promise appeared to designed to calm worries among labor groups, who have so far seen little benefit from the sharp growth in other clean energy technologies.
“Where the missing piece right now is agreement between these developers and the offshore wind industry and industrial unions to use [the growth] as an opportunity to really build out a manufacturing supply chain for offshore wind in this country,” Jason Walsh, executive director of the BlueGreen Alliance, told POLITICO last week before the administration’s announcement. “That’s who will fully capture the economic benefits of offshore wind domestically.”
Still, Biden’s repeated emphasis on ensuring that unions benefit is drawing praise from labor groups.
“There’s nothing stronger than the president saying these should be union jobs,” said Anna Fendley, director of regulatory and state policy for the United Steelworkers, a union of steel and factory workers.
But getting those factories built to supply the offshore wind industry may rely more on private companies and state-level decisions. Marc Rogers, CEO of Mayflower Wind, a joint venture of three European energy companies, including Shell, said his company offered Massachusetts a power supply contract that included financing a factory in the state to produce components, but the state chose a least-cost deal without the factory. Rogers says other states may take a different view.
“We have seen some states actively looking to accelerate through the RFP process,” he told POLITICO. “Offshore wind can be low cost and local.”
The Norwegian oil and offshore wind giant Equinor struck a deal with New York last year that will build a production facility in Albany, N.Y., to support a project south of Long Island.
Monday’s announcement also included a series of partnerships to support research and development, including funding through the National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium that was created by DOE and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.
The consortium will award $8 million to 15 offshore wind R&D projects that focus on offshore support structure innovation, supply chain development, electrical systems innovation and mitigation of use conflicts.
The Transportation Department’s Maritime Administration also announced it would make $230 million in funding available for port and intermodal infrastructure-related projects through the Port Infrastructure Development Program.
NOAA is also working with Danish energy company Ørsted to share physical and biological data in Ørsted-leased waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction — which the administration is touting as a first-of-its-kind agreement between an offshore wind developer and NOAA.
Despite the promise of union jobs in the offshore wind industry, the Biden administration will still need to grapple with the opposition from the fishing industry, which criticized the Biden administration’s recent turnaround on the Vineyard Wind project.
Anne Hawkins, executive director of the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, said Monday’s announcement did not address process, planning or scientific concerns that have been raised by the industry, and includes “essentially nothing” for fisheries. “You have to look at existing ocean jobs and of course that is not in here at all,” she told POLITICO.