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U.S. boosts offshore wind projects

Biden administration expanding clean-energy initiative by The Washington Post | March 30, 2021 at 1:59 a.m.

The White House announced Monday a plan to expand wind farms along the East Coast and jump-start the country's nascent offshore wind industry, saying that it would trigger a clean-energy effort in the fight against climate change.

The plan would generate 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by the end of the decade -- enough to power more than 10 million American homes and cut 86 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions. President Joe Biden's administration said it would speed permitting for projects off the East Coast, invest in research and development, provide low-interest loans to industry and fund changes to U.S. ports.

"We are ready to rock and roll," national climate adviser Gina McCarthy told reporters in a phone call Monday. Offshore wind power will generate "thousands of good paying union jobs. This is all about creating great jobs in the ocean and in our port cities and in our heartland," she said.

The new initiative represents a major stretch for the United States. The country has only one offshore wind project online right now, generating 30 megawatts off Rhode Island. It is currently on track to generate 15 gigawatts by 2030, according to Rystad Energy vice president for renewable energy Vegard Wiik Vollset.

"A drastic acceleration of this is going to be needed if we're going to hit those targets," Wiik Vollset said in a phone interview.

Biden officials outlined a plan for speeding up offshore wind development, by setting deadlines for reviewing and approving permit applications; establishing a new wind energy area in the waters between Long Island, N.Y., and the New Jersey coast; investing $230 million upgrade U.S. ports; and providing $3 billion in potential loans for the offshore wind industry through the Energy Department.

The program also instructs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to share physical and biological data with Orsted, a Danish offshore wind development firm, about the U.S. waters where it holds leases. NOAA will grant $1 million to help study the impact of offshore wind operations on fishing operators as well as coastal communities.

The National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium, a joint project of the the U.S. Department of Energy and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, will also give $8 million in research grants to 15 offshore wind research and development projects.

Unlike other renewable energy sectors, offshore wind represents one of the most labor-friendly opportunities for U.S. workers because these projects require regular operations and maintenance support. Orsted signed an agreement in November with the North America's Building Trades Unions to transition some of its workers into offshore wind, and the company has also provided support to train members of the Masters, Mates and Pilots union.

Investing money in ports, moreover, can provide job opportunities in disadvantaged communities on America's coasts.

Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm called the Biden administration's plan an example of "clean-energy patriotism" -- investing in U.S. industries and U.S. workers. "It does reflect this whole of government embrace," Granholm said."We all have a role to play."

While the Orsted project has the potential to power 300,000 homes, it has already generated some opposition from Ocean City, N.J., residents, who complain it could affect their views.

Earlier this month Interior approved an environmental review for Vineyard Wind, off the Massachusetts coast, which could become the nation's first commercial-scale offshore wind project.

"For generations, we've put off the transition to green energy, and now we face a climate crisis," Interior Secretary Deb Haaland told reporters. "It's a crisis that doesn't discriminate. ... We must seize this tremendous opportunity""

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