WASHINGTON – The Biden government announced Friday that it would begin the formal sales process of leases to develop offshore wind farms in shallow waters between Long Island and New Jersey in an effort to convert the nation to renewable energy.
The proposed sale, the first of the Biden administration, comprises eight leases in New York Bight, a triangular area in the Atlantic Ocean between Cape May, New Jersey and Montauk Point on the eastern tip of Long Island. Administration officials estimated that wind turbines could generate more than seven gigawatts of electricity there – enough to power more than 2.6 million homes.
The move is part of the Biden government’s drive to boost the country’s offshore wind sector. Last month final approval was given for the country’s first commercial offshore wind farm off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard and said it would open the California coast to wind farms. Earlier this week the government said it was looking into moving wind farms to the Gulf of Mexico. President Biden has set himself the goal of generating 30,000 megawatts of electricity from offshore wind across the country by 2030.
This is in stark contrast to former President Donald J. Trump, who belittled wind turbines and claimed they destroyed property values, caused cancer and killed birds. His government advocated fossil fuel development and denied the scientific consensus that emissions from burning oil, gas, and coal are driving climate change. Mr Trump began his administration by donating 73 million acres of water off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida for oil and gas exploration and ended it with the sale of oil and gas drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The Biden government suspended drilling leases in the arctic refuge last week.
“Climate change poses an existential threat, not only to our environment, but also to our health, our communities and our economic well-being,” Interior Minister Deb Haaland said in a statement. She called the development of offshore wind and other renewable energy resources “an important part of facing this reality”.
Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees offshore activities, named the New York Bight a “priority offshore wind farm” in March, a first step before awarding new leases to wind developers. That was supposed to happen in 2019, but the Trump administration missed the deadline.
A 2020 study by Wood Mackenzie, an international energy consultancy, found that developing offshore wind in the New York Bight would save 32,200 jobs and $ 3.3 billion in wages annually.
The lease “not only opens a door to investment in New York, but will support jobs and businesses across the United States,” said Erik Milito, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, which represents offshore oil, gas and wind producers.
But the fishing industry says the wind farms will conflict with the best areas to catch scallops, clams, and other seafood, and that the federal government has ignored their concerns.
“Fishermen weren’t really involved in offshore wind planning as co-planners or trustworthy participants. It’s all really one-sided, ”said Annie Hawkins, executive director of the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, which works for the fishing industry.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is proposing several provisions as part of the lease sale – including one that would require employment contracts.
The new rules would oblige companies that win lease contracts to “make all reasonable efforts” to conclude a project work contract for construction in the lease area. It is also suggested that companies “put in place mechanisms to benefit underserved communities” and improve communication with fishing communities and others.
The Home Office will have a 60-day comment period for public feedback on the hire-purchase and proposed new requirements before issuing a final notice of the hire-purchase date.
Offshore wind power has been booming in Europe for more than a decade, where today thousands of turbines are scattered along the coasts. In the United States, where only two tiny wind farms are currently in operation near Rhode Island and Virginia, the technology has taken a slower pace.
But wind power is poised to develop rapidly along the east coast, with recent commitments from Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Virginia to buy more than 25,000 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2035, according to American Clean Power Association.