The Biden administration is moving to sharply increase offshore wind energy along the US east coast, saying on Monday it is taking steps toward approving a huge windfarm off New Jersey as part of an effort to generate electricity for more than 10m homes by 2030.
Meeting the target could mean jobs for more than 44,000 workers and for 33,000 others in related employment, the White House said. The effort also would help avoid 78m metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year, a key step in the fight to slow the climate crisis.
Joe Biden “believes we have an enormous opportunity in front of us to not only address the threats of climate change, but use it as a chance to create millions of good-paying, union jobs that will fuel America’s economic recovery,” said the White House climate adviser Gina McCarthy.
“Nowhere is the scale of that opportunity clearer than for offshore wind.”
The commitment “will create pathways to the middle class for people from all backgrounds and communities”, she added.
The administration said it intends to prepare a formal environmental analysis for the Ocean Wind project off New Jersey, moving it toward becoming the third commercial-scale offshore wind project in the US.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (OEM), part of the interior department, said it was targeting offshore wind projects in shallow waters between Long Island, New York and New Jersey. A recent study shows the area can support up to 25,000 development and construction jobs by 2030, a statement said.
OEM said it will push to sell commercial leases in late 2021 or early 2022.
Ocean Wind, 15 miles off the coast of southern New Jersey, is projected to produce about 1,100 megawatts a year, enough to power 500,000 homes.
The Department of the Interior has announced environmental reviews for Vineyard Wind in Massachusetts and South Fork windfarm about 35 miles east of Montauk Point in New York. Vineyard Wind is expected to produce about 800 megawatts and South Fork about 132.
Biden has vowed to double offshore wind production by 2030 as part of his effort to slow the climate crisis. The likely approval of the Atlantic coast projects – the leading edge of at least 16 offshore wind projects along the east coast – marks a sharp turnaround from the Trump administration, which stymied wind power onshore and in the ocean.
Donald Trump frequently derided wind power as an expensive, bird-killing way to make electricity, and his administration resisted or opposed projects including Vineyard Wind. The developer of the Massachusetts project temporarily withdrew its application in a bid to stave off possible rejection. Biden provided a fresh opening for the project soon after taking office in January.
“For generations, we’ve put off the transition to clean energy and now we’re facing a climate crisis,” said the interior secretary, Deb Haaland.
“As our country faces the interlocking challenges of a global pandemic, economic downturn, racial injustice and the climate crisis, we have to transition to a brighter future for everyone.”
Vineyard Wind is slated to become operational in 2023, Ocean Wind a year later.
Offshore wind development is in its infancy in the US, far behind Europe. A small windfarm operates in waters controlled by Rhode Island, and another small farm operates off Virginia.
The three major projects are owned by European companies or subsidiaries. Vineyard Wind is a joint project of a Danish company and a US subsidiary of the Spanish energy company Iberdrola. Ocean Wind and South Fork are led by the Danish company, Orsted.
Wind developers are poised to create tens of thousands of jobs and generate more than $100bn in new investment by 2030 “but the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management must first open the door to new leasing″, said Erik Milito, the president of the National Ocean Industries Association.
Fishing groups from Maine to Florida have expressed fear that large offshore wind projects could render huge swaths of the ocean off-limits to their catch.