Nearly every coast of the US could see offshore wind farms. Today, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced plans to auction leases to developers in seven additional areas by 2025. This includes waters in the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf of Maine, Central Atlantic and New York Bights (between Long Island & New Jersey), as well as off the coasts of Oregon and California.
This is a major scaling up of offshore winds in the US, which has lag behind Europe in terms of deployment. In May, the US received federal approval for its first commercial-scale offshore windfarm. The combined power of two smaller US operations has a mere 42 megawatts. Biden's administration set a goal to increase capacity by 30,000 MW by 2030. Nearly that much was already installed in Europe, which hosts the majority of the world's offshore wind.
Expansion to new shores will bring with it new technical challenges
The East Coast is home to the first US offshore wind farms. There will be new technical challenges when expanding to other shores. The Pacific coast waters are deeper and closer to shore than the US Atlantic coastline. It is therefore more difficult to attach turbines to the ocean floor. In May, the White House announced that two areas along California's coast would be available for commercial-scale wind farms. It also indicated that it may look into new technology to create floating wind farms.
Recent studies by the National Renewable Energy Lab have shown that turbines located in the Gulf of Mexico will need to deal with storms and soft soils. The Gulf is still ripe to develop wind power, despite its shallow waters and smaller waves. A new offshore wind industry could also be developed here, benefiting from the existing infrastructure and knowledge from the region's history of offshore oil-and gas drilling. Louisiana ships were instrumental in the construction of the first wind farm located off Rhode Island's coast.
A pipeline of projects to build confidence in the offshore wind industry
Amanda Lefton, Director of Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, stated that they are working to create a pipeline of projects which will help build confidence in the offshore wind industry. It may take several years before offshore turbines are up and running. Proposed wind farms have struggled in the past with permits delays, opposition from local officials, and a lack of specialist installation ships.
There is no time to lose when it comes to the transition to renewable energy. However, the US is experiencing more extreme droughts, wildfires and storms as a result climate change. Offshore wind is part of the larger goal of the Biden administration to make the country's electricity grid entirely clean by 2035 and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050.