INSIGHT: Trump’s Environmental Legacy Could Be the Rise of U.S. Offshore Wind

When President Donald Trump took office, he pledged to make America a powerhouse by embracing an all-of-the-above approach to energy. While the president has criticized wind energy, ironically, it may be his administration that green-lights Vineyard Wind and substantially unlocks America’s offshore wind potential.

While dozens of offshore wind projects have been developed over the past two decades from the U.K. to China, only one project has come online stateside. That is about to change.

Wind Energy Boon

The U.S. East Coast is a top target for energy companies interested in investing in offshore wind and will bring with development a substantial boon for workers and the economy while also accessing a previously untapped source of emission-free energy.

The appetite for offshore wind is palpable. States and industry have aligned to help create a market for offshore wind that invest and establish manufacturing facilities in the U.S. This past summer, New Jersey regulators announced a new project to build 1100 MW of offshore wind off the coast of Atlantic City. In September, Virginia’s largest utility announced a plan to build over 200 wind turbines 27 miles off the coast. The project would generate enough energy to power 650,000 homes.

By 2050, offshore wind is projected to create 181,000 jobs domestically. More than just jobs, these installations are poised to become a significant source of clean energy. According to the Business Network for Offshore Wind, in one year, a single modern offshore wind turbine can generate enough electricity to meet the annual needs of over 11,000 households. Combined with the wind resource off the mid-Atlantic Coast there’s enough potential energy to power close to 45 percent of America’s population.

Taxpayers Matter

The benefits to taxpayers matter, too. The 15 leases auctioned by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for offshore sites have already brought in over $472 million in revenue.

Investment in wind power—both on and offshore—has increased dramatically over the past several years. During 2018alone, the U.S. added 7.5 gigawatts of new wind power, investing more than $24 billion in the projects. With this new investment comes increased efficiency. The cost-per-kilowatt-hour of today’s wind turbines is 55 percent lower than it was in 2009. The same kind of growth and cost savings could be what’s next for offshore wind.

A critical part of the process are environmental reviews that safeguard fisheries, fishermen, marine wildlife, and people who live and recreate along the coasts. It’s no easy undertaking. That’s why the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management ordered a broad review of the cumulative environmental impact of nine offshore wind projects in seven states in August.

While the offshore wind industry is understandably worried that delays make it harder for planned projects to get off the ground, the Trump administration has also focused on avoiding delays with infrastructure development through an executive order that requires the federal government to complete an environmental review with 24 months.

An efficient and timely review is important as tax credits for wind are set to expire at the end of 2020. Indeed, the developers of the Vineyard Wind project in Massachusetts are watching the clock carefully. Any delay in review may be costly.

Now is the time for the Trump administration to stay true to an all-of-the-above approach to energy and timely environmental reviews. Indeed, if everything goes to plan and environmental, industrial, and recreational interests can be met, 2020 may a year to remember: The year the Trump administration green-lighted the rapid launch of offshore wind. By doing so, Americans can benefit from the jobs, economic activity, and clean energy delivered by offshore wind.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Bureau of National Affairs, Inc. or its owners.

Author Information

Sarah E. Hunt is co-founder and CEO of the Joseph Rainey Center for Public Policy. Previously, she ran clean energy and climate change programs at the American Legislative Exchange Council and the Niskanen Center.

Charles Hernick is the director of policy and advocacy at Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions Forum in Washington, D.C. In this role, he develops and advances conservative clean energy solutions. Hernick is an energy and climate change expert having worked across the U.S. and on the ground in over a dozen countries in Africa, Latin America, and the Caribbean.

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