OCEAN CITY — President Joe Biden this week announced an ambitious plan to jumpstart offshore wind energy projects, but it remains uncertain what some of the bold actions included in the plan mean for a pair of projects already in the pipeline off the resort coast.
The Biden administration, through a multi-department coalition that includes the Departments of the Interior, Energy and Commerce, announced a stated goal of deploying 30 gigawatts, or 30,000 megawatts, of offshore wind energy off the east coast by 2030. According to the administration statement, reaching the goal will generate enough power to meet the demand of more than 10 million American homes and avoid 78 million metric tons of CO2 emissions.
On Monday, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced a new priority wind energy area off the coasts of New Jersey and New York. The next step in that process is for BOEM to publicize a proposed sale notice, followed by a formal public comment and a lease sale later this year or early in 2022. BOEM previously announced environmental reviews for projects in Massachusetts and Rhode Island and anticipate initiating environmental review for up to 10 additional projects this year.
Closer to home, two offshore wind energy projects — US Wind’s MarWin project and Orsted’s Skipjack project — area moving through the approval process so it remains to be seen if the bold actions announced by the president on Monday will have any impact on those. However, Biden’s announcements on Monday call for expediting the approval process for offshore wind projects.
In 2017, the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) approved two offshore wind energy projects off the coast of Ocean City. Technically, the PSC awarded Offshore Renewable Energy Credits, or ORECs, to the two successful bidders seeking to develop wind energy farms off the coast of the resort including the US Wind project and the Skipjack project.
From the beginning, Ocean City has not opposed, but rather supported, the development of clean renewable energy off the coast. The town’s problem from the beginning has been the proposed distance of the wind turbines from the coast and the potential impact on the offshore viewsheds. The issue has been debated at nearly every level and every step in the regulatory process.
After Biden’s major announcements on Monday, the secretaries of the various federal departments involved issued statements in strong support. The statements were well-coordinated and redundant, but the following is a sample from Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo.
“The Commerce Department is committed to innovative partnerships that advance the best science and data to ensure the development of offshore wind is transparent and inclusive of all stakeholders,” she said. “We look forward to engaging the public and private sectors to invest in clean energy solutions, like offshore wind, that will contribute to the whole-of-government approach to combat the climate crisis and create high-paying, high-skilled American jobs.”
US Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski issued a general statement about the president’s commitment to offshore wind energy development.
“This is an extraordinary day for offshore wind,” he said. “The Biden administration is perfectly aligned with what we need to make offshore wind a huge source of clean energy and American jobs. I have always believed that the U.S. would be a global leader in this industry, and for the first time in over a decade, I can see a path to getting there.”
Grybowski’s statement also included language specific to US Wind’s project in Maryland off the coast of Ocean City.
“This is an industry that cannot succeed without 21st century port infrastructure and the hardworking men and women in organized labor,” he said. “As Maryland’s leader in offshore wind development, US Wind is committed to building out Maryland’s exceptional industrial waterfront while revitalizing underserved communities and hiring skilled union labor in the process.”
Ørsted CEO David Hardy also issued a formal statement praising the president’s bold initiatives for offshore wind.
“This action will set our country on a path to maximize our unmatched wind potential to help meet the nation’s clean energy needs,” the statement reads. “More than that, it reaffirms offshore wind’s ability to launch a new U.S. industry that will provide well-paying jobs, create economic opportunity and generate local investment that will benefit all Americans.”
Ørsted Mid-Atlantic Market Manager Brady Walker addressed what the president’s initiatives could mean for the Skipjack project.
“The Skipjack wind farm will play a critical role in helping to meet the administration’s new goal of creating $12 billion in annual offshore wind capital investments and 44,000 domestic offshore wind jobs by 2030,” said Ørsted Mid-Atlantic Market Manager Brady Walker.
Not all were pleased with Biden’s announcements for bold action on offshore wind development on Monday. The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA), a broad membership-based coalition of fishing industry associations, issued their own statement on Monday voicing concern fishermen will be ignored in the rush to expand offshore wind.
“Offshore wind development poses an enormous risk to the marine environment and sustainable U.S. seafood production,” the statement reads. “The Biden Administration’s disappointing fervor over its advancement continues an ineffective approach toward addressing climate change begun by previous administrations without demonstrating any willingness to include fisheries, ecosystem science or our coastal communities in climate solutions.”
The RODA statement asserts the fishing industry should be invited to the table during the rush to identify new lease areas. The president’s initiatives include $4 billion for offshore wind development, although a paltry $1 million is promised to help coastal communities “improve understanding of offshore renewable energy.
“A $1 million grant in only one region of the country is an ineffective attempt to pay lip services to the coastal communities that will experience significant impacts from the industrialization of their shorelines for decades to come,” the RODA statement reads. “The concession ignores the needs and economic realities of fishing communities, leaving them without a seat at the table where decisions about our exclusive economic zone are being made. As fisheries experts have long understood, fishermen’s knowledge is a key contributor to effective science-based management of ocean resources and ecosystems and should be utilized as an asset, not a hurdle to marginalize.”