The East Coast is on track to add more than thirty gigawatts of offshore wind (OSW) generation in the next 15 years, with the Biden Administration issuing an executive order that calls on our country to build new, clean American infrastructure to drive a clean energy economy, creating tens of thousands of new jobs along the way. The Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM) is conducting an environmental review of twelve potential wind projects through 2021 and an additional 16 construction operations plans (COPs) by 2025, which will represent more than 19 GW of clean energy.
The build out imagined is unprecedented. We are poised to do in ten years what it took Europe 30 years to do.
The Biden Administration has announced a new priority wind energy area in the New York Bight, in between Long Island, NY and New Jersey, the construction of which, will support up to 25,000 development and construction jobs. The Department of the Interior (DOI) and Commerce (DOC) are planning to deploy the thirty gigawatts of OSW infrastructure while protecting biodiversity and protecting ocean co-use.
What makes OSW so exciting is the quantity of power we can derive from the existing potential of our coastal waters, essentially indefinitely. We have the potential to power nearly two times the entire U.S. electric demand, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). As the old gas, oil, and coal power plants of New England are retired, it is the perfect opportunity to begin a transition to a clean energy source that is locally generated and provides a massive benefit to our communities.
The New Hampshire Offshore Wind Commission is engaging in a Request for Proposal (RFP) process to learn more about the public perception of OSW, and how it will potentially impact the electrical grid and market in New England. One issue that has come up is the lack of interconnection points to handle such a large load of electricity coming in from the coast. The grid will need further investment to handle the new influx of electricity coming from the sea.
No source of energy comes without some impacts, and OSW is no exception. Developers will need to take great care to not worsen the fate of the critically endangered Northern Atlantic Right Whale, which now is estimated to number fewer than 400 individuals. Fortunately, thanks to the dedicated advocacy of environmental organizations, many considerations are already being made for ocean wildlife and habitat. The construction and operations plan for the only offshore wind farm to have received permission for construction, Vineyard Wind, includes over 46 pages on mitigation and monitoring measures, including restrictions that limit the pile driving of foundations – the most dangerous process for sea creatures – to times of year when whales tend to be in Canadian waters.
While it is important to monitor the environmental impacts of these projects, we’re not exploring new territory. Europe has already installed more than 5,000 OSW turbines and has worked to characterize their impacts on the marine environment, which seems to be largely manageable. The Federal Government’s environmental impact statement (EIS) for Vineyard Wind found that the impacts to fish and wildlife were “negligible” to “moderate.”
If you, your municipality, or your company are interested in OSW or how you can get involved in the process to make this clean energy infrastructure a reality, reach out to us at Clean Energy NH, or to your local clean energy leader!
Josh is the Program Coordinator at Clean Energy New Hampshire, where he plans, develops, and delivers technical and educational assistance to communities around NH. Josh has a Master’s in Environmental Law and Policy from Vermont Law school.