World outlook

state goals and significant investments from states and the industry itself, we’re finally at a point where the offshore wind industry is ready to take off into scale in the US.”

As Zichal sees it, the benefits are extraordinary. Infrastructure investment could rise from $1.3bn today to $57bn by 2030, according to a American Wind Energy Association report in 2020, generating $25bn in annual economic output. Offshore wind activities could support around 80,000 jobs a year from 2025–35, with around 74 different types of jobs required. “You’re looking not only at jobs that can easily migrate from the oil and gas industry to offshore wind, but also the construction industry, the transportation and port industries, turbine manufacturing and the supply chain,” says Zichal. Perhaps because of the clear economic drivers, support for wind has always been bipartisan. Whatever Trump’s views on the matter, the majority of Republicans are in favour of expanding wind power.

“A recent Pew Research poll found strong support for more wind development, including from 69% of conservative Republicans and 93% from liberal Democrats,” says Zichal. “It just makes common sense, whether you’re looking at the tax equity piece or the tax benefits component, or the lease sales that are going to farmers in red and blue states.” The question, then, is why it has taken so long for offshore wind to reach this point. According to the US Department of Energy, there is more than 2,000GW of wind power blowing off US coastlines. As the industry reaches maturity in Europe and Asia, it may seem surprising that this power remains unharnessed. To date, the country has just two offshore wind farms up and running – the tiny Block Island Wind in Rhode Island, and the even tinier Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind project. Other proposals have encountered resistance, most notably the Cape Wind project off Cape Cod, which was canned after the two utilities involved cancelled their power purchase agreements. Wealthy residents had also complained about the likely view from their properties.

State’s rights

There have been regulatory challenges too – not least the fact that any offshore wind project in federal waters must be permitted by both the state and federal governments. Zichal herself, who has a background in policy, has been working personally to advance offshore wind since 2002. While she has seen previous administrations work hard to move the industry forward, permitting and regulatory certainty have been difficult to achieve. “At the federal level, the agency that has the authority to lease federal waters didn’t even have

World Wind Technology /

that authority until 2005,” she says. “And they weren’t able to set up a regulatory system until 2009. These delays in the permitting process have played a role in the US falling behind global competitors in harnessing the winds off the coast to power communities.” The past few years, however, have seen a change in attitude, with states up and down the Atlantic setting their own ambitious sustainability goals.

President Biden’s administration has promised to push wind power hard in the coming years.

“We’re fi nally at a point where the offshore wind industry is ready to take off into scale in the US.”

Heather Zichal

“When you roll up all of the commitments to date, we’re looking at about 32GW,” says Zichal. “And you see governors and members of Congress also taking steps to create a favourable policy environment that will open up the states to draw businesses in.” Professor Barbara Kates-Garnick, professor of practice at The Fletcher School at Tufts University and former undersecretary of energy for Massachusetts, agrees that this is an interesting inflection point for offshore wind. Compared with his predecessor, Biden brings a clear commitment to climate science, as well as a good set of appointees in favour of renewable resources. “He’s ensured that you’re not going to be able to look at anything without having a climate and energy lens, whether you’re talking transportation, technology, innovation, jobs or housing,” says Kates-Garnick. “His climate proposals are very supportive when it comes to wind – he recognises that energy is local, and that he needs to work with the state on transmission and infrastructure. It’s really important we upgrade the grid to be able to incorporate renewables coming in.”

2,000GW Amount of wind power blowing off the US coastline.


Potential jobs to be created in the offshore wind power sector per year, from 2025–35.

US Department of Energy 9

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