The Biden government on Tuesday announced its final approval for the country’s first commercial offshore wind farm. This is an important step towards President Biden’s goal of expanding renewable energy production in the United States.
The Vineyard Wind project calls for up to 84 turbines to be installed in the Atlantic about 12 nautical miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Mass. Together they could generate around 800 megawatts of electricity, which is enough to supply around 400,000 households with electricity. The administration estimates that the project will create around 3,600 jobs.
The idea of a wind farm off the Massachusetts coast began two decades ago, but encountered repeated setbacks, delays and well-funded opposition from waterfront property owners before the Trump administration abandoned the project’s approval process.
The Biden government made progress on Vineyard Wind in March as part of its larger undertaking to combat climate change.
“A clean energy future is within reach in the US,” said Home Secretary Deb Haaland on Tuesday. “Approving this project is an important step in advancing the government’s goals of creating well-paying union jobs while tackling climate change and empowering our nation. Today is one of many steps we want to take to open the doors of economic opportunity to more Americans. “
The government has pledged to build 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind in the US by 2030. The White House aims to invest $ 12 billion in capital annually and create 77,000 direct and indirect jobs by the end of the decade.
The $ 2.8 billion project is a joint venture between energy companies Avangrid Renewables and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners.
“It’s a big deal at first sight. It’s the first of its kind, ”said Frank Callahan, president of the Massachusetts Building Trades Council. He praised the administration and said, “I think it’s an important message that these jobs will be good union jobs with good wages and benefits.” Mr Callahan and other union leaders have tried to ensure that the project is built and maintained by union workers.
The Biden government said it intends to speed up approvals for projects off the Atlantic coast and would offer $ 3 billion federal loan guarantees for offshore wind projects and invest in upgrading ports in the US to help build Support wind turbines.
Vineyard Wind is widely viewed as a test of the Biden government’s ability to expedite approval of offshore wind projects while addressing the concerns of some working groups as well as commercial fishermen and others.
“It’s a big deal, not just for Vineyard Wind. This is the icebreaker, it’s the first to set the course, ”said Rafael McDonald, an electricity and renewable energy analyst at IHS Markit, after the Biden government released its first environmental review in March. “There’s all this pent-up demand from government mandates, and Vineyard Wind is the blow.”
The electricity generated by the Vineyard Wind turbines is transported to Cape Cod via cables buried six feet below the seabed, where it is connected to a substation and fed into the New England grid. Construction would begin later that year; The project’s developers say it could be operational by 2023.
In addition to Vineyard Wind, a dozen other offshore wind projects along the east coast are being examined by the federal government. The Department of the Interior has estimated that offshore wind project developers could install at least 2,000 turbines from Massachusetts to North Carolina by the end of the decade.
The effort combines the government’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions that are warming the planet with the promise that renewable energies will create new economic opportunities. Mr Biden has pledged to cut US emissions roughly in half by 2035. If Mr Biden’s offshore wind targets are met, part of that target will be achieved by avoiding 78 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the government said.
Many Republicans are skeptical of Mr Biden’s job creation claims, saying that the president’s plans – particularly his suspension of new state and aquatic oil and gas leases – are already harming union workers in the fossil fuel industry.
Offshore wind, which is booming in Europe, is an emerging industry in the USA. Only two wind farms are currently in operation off the coasts of Virginia and Rhode Island. Together they produce 42 megawatts of electricity.
Several Atlantic coastal states, including Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia, have pledged to buy more than 25,000 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2035, according to the American Clean Power Association.
Still, some coastal communities have classified wind farms as eyesore, and some environmentalists are concerned about the impact on marine life.
Fishing groups, meanwhile, are concerned that their boats and trawlers will be forced to stay away from the giant turbines, the largest of which are now rotor diameters the length of two football fields. This could limit the amount of seafood they can catch and potentially steal millions of dollars in revenue from inshore fishing communities.
Brad Plumer contributed to the coverage.