As part of the announcement, the Biden administration pledged to facilitate “timely and effective permitting and environmental reviews” of offshore wind projects and lease sales. In the past, licensing has been a significant bottleneck in advancing offshore wind projects.
Crucially, Biden is also acting to ease another major bottleneck: securing the specialized ships needed to install skyscraper-tall turbines on the high seas. The project competes for time with the few installed vessels worldwide, which number just over 30. The U.S. faces additional restrictions because the Jones Act requires ships traveling between two points in the U.S. to be built, owned, crewed and registered in the U.S.
The first Jones Act-compliant ship built in the U.S. should be completed next year. To speed up the construction of more ships, Biden on Thursday announced priority financing for offshore wind ships. They will be designated as “ships of national interest” by the Maritime Administration of the Department of Transportation.
The Biden administration is also developing an “offshore wind supply chain map” to figure out what needs to be done to meet state and federal wind energy goals. Biden plans to expand U.S. offshore wind capacity from the current 42 megawatts to 30,000 megawatts by 2030. This 2030 goal should be enough clean energy capacity to power 10 million homes.
To get there, the U.S. will have to build more wind farms. A preliminary analysis published in March found that the White House’s goal would require the construction of 2,100 wind turbines and foundations, as well as a fleet of five to six installation ships and other types of specialist vessels. The U.S. will also have to lay 6,800 miles of cable to connect distant turbines and the homes they will power on land. Doing all of these jobs would require an average of 12,300 to 49,000 full-time workers a year, according to the March report.
Meanwhile, the 11 governors who joined the partnership plan to work with the Biden administration to address issues that cross state lines. These issues range from building power lines to managing fisheries. The impact of offshore wind on local fisheries has been a pain point that states have had to address as part of their push for clean energy.
So far, the few offshore wind farms in the U.S. are on the east coast, including larger projects currently in development. But the Biden administration has already moved to open up waters on the West Coast and Gulf Coast, so states in those areas mentioned in Thursday’s announcement could join in the future.
The Biden administration’s offshore wind dream is part of a larger mission to slow climate change. The U.S. plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions to near zero by 2050, in part by making the grid run entirely on clean energy by 2035.
Outside the U.S., offshore wind is also gaining momentum. Global capital spending on offshore wind is expected to double to more than $100 billion by the end of the decade, according to forecasts released earlier this week by Norway’s Rystad Energy.