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Just three months after entering office, the Biden administration is kicking off its wind power infrastructure vision with the approval of the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm. With the government’s support, the Vineyard Wind project will begin construction this summer, just 12 nautical miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Proponents of the project say it will create sustainable energy, thousands of jobs and open the door toward future green energy development. But there may still be obstacles in their path.
Why This Matters: Investing in wind power is one of the most efficient ways the U.S. can make the shift to net-zero emissions. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the nation’s wind energy potential is double that of its current electricity use. In March, Biden’s Cabinet presented a plan to generate 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, enough to power 10 million American homes for a year and mitigate 78 million metric tons of CO2 emissions. This plan, which was revived after decades of setbacks, delays, and opposition, is the first step in accomplishing those goals and meeting the goals of the Paris agreement.
Winds of Change
The sheer scale of this project is difficult to ignore. There are only two offshore wind farms in operation in the U.S.; both located on the east coast, they generate 42 megawatts of electricity. The Vineyard Wind project will install 84 turbines, producing 800 megawatts and powering 400,000 homes. The administration has also estimated that the project will create 3,600 jobs in the region. “A clean energy future is within our grasp in the United States,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland. “The approval of this project is an important step toward advancing the administration’s goals to create good-paying union jobs while combating climate change and powering our nation.” Officials say that the $2.8 million project is only the beginning and predict that 2,000 turbines could line the east coast by 2030.
Some locals are thrilled to see the project begin. “The introduction of offshore wind facilities off the coast of Massachusetts is poised to create tens of thousands of new jobs across the region,” said Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.). “Massachusetts labor unions stand ready to tackle the opportunities and challenges of projects like Vineyard Wind and can train and develop the local workforce to meet the demands of the offshore wind industry.” However, this rapid development is met by opposition from stakeholders like the fishing industry, which worries about these enormous turbines’ impact on fish populations and ease of navigation. “For the past decade, fishermen have participated in offshore wind meetings whenever they were asked and produced reasonable requests, only to be met with silence,” said Anne Hawkins, the executive director of the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance. But Amanda Lefton, the director of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said that the agency will continue to include the fishing industry in its offshore wind discussions as more projects develop. “We are considering those impacts and considering members of the fishing community in that process,” she said. “We can ensure that we have the best science to help address some of the concerns that are out there.”
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