Written by Bruce Gellerman
There are nine offshore wind projects currently on the drawing board for the Atlantic coast. Northeast governors need those wind turbines to help meet their states’ clean energy goals, and are competing for the land-based businesses that will supply the new industry — and could bring tens of thousands of jobs to the region. Industry analysts estimate that investment in U.S. offshore wind could hit $108 billion by 2030.
But this blue-sky vision has one large uncertainty: Donald Trump.
“I never understood wind,” the president said last December. “You know I know windmills very much. I’ve studied it better than anybody. I know it’s very expensive.”
Trump says windmills, as he calls them, are also noisy, ugly and cause cancer.
But as the election approaches there are signs the Trump administration’s position on wind energy could be shifting.
That comes at a critical time for the development of offshore wind, especially in New England. Last year, at the last minute, the administration surprised the industry, stalling construction of the nation’s first large-scale wind project off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.
‘A Globally Significant Wind Resource’
European developers have been building offshore wind farms for nearly 20 years. Today, there are more than 5,000 electricity-generating turbines in European seas. In the U.S. there are just five, 15 miles off the coast of Rhode Island.
“The Rhode Island-Massachusetts wind energy area is as strong as any wind resource anywhere in the world,” says Matthew Morrissey, head of New England offshore markets with the Danish company Ørsted, the world’s largest developer of offshore wind. “This is truly a globally significant wind resource, which allows this amount of energy to be produced.”
Morrissey was formerly vice president of Deepwater Wind, which developed the five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm when it opened in 2016. That 30-megawatt farm — now owned by Ørsted — is just a small taste of what experts say is possible. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates offshore wind could generate twice as much electricity as the country currently uses.
And developers have long had big plans for a new offshore wind industry along New England’s coast. One example is the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, the nation’s first — and still, only — offshore wind staging facility.
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