Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – President Biden has announced an enormous offshore wind corridor. So report Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis at WaPo. I wrote earlier this month about the 84-turbine Vineyard Wind project off Massachusetts, which has just been permitted, which will generate 800 megawatts.
Biden wants to generate nearly 40 times as much as the Vineyard Wind installation will– 30 gigawatts, with projects off the East Coast, by 2030. His administration looks set to fast-track the permitting where the installations are in federal waters. The plan will attract $30 billion in private investment and generate tens of thousands of well-paying jobs.
Britain, by the way, already gets 10 percent of all its electricity from this source. The US is so backward because of the baleful political influence of our coddled fossil fuel billionaires, who have bought much of Congress. Biden, who is willing to try to make the Greens in his party happy if it benefits the country (it does), is about to change all that.
Offshore wind will not only provide clean, inexpensive electricity (air is free), but the development of these projects will require infrastructure upgrades at ports where the turbines are constructed and from which they are installed. Since turbines in the sea require upkeep, they will generate high quality jobs, another Biden goal. WaPo says, a little weirdly, that petroleum pipelines generate more jobs, but that is apples and oranges. We don’t typically generate electricity from petroleum in the United States. The question would be offshore wind versus natural gas plants for job generation. Also, if you burn fossil fuels and summon mega-storms and sea level rise and wildfires and debilitating heat for outdoor summer labor, you might get rid of a lot of jobs that way.
Just to underline how keen Biden’s vision is, a new report finds that if the United States utilized all its potential for offshore wind generation, it could generate 7,200 terawatt-hours of electricity every year.
Here’s the kicker. The US only uses about 4,222.5 terawatt-hours annually.
One terawatt-hour is the electricity it takes to burn 10 billion 100-watt light bulbs for one hour.
That’s right. Offshore wind alone could power the entire United States nearly twice over. Of course, we need better battery and other storage techniques, since even offshore the wind doesn’t blow all the time.
These are the findings of The Environment America Research and Policy Center and the Frontier Group, non-profits that form part of the Public Interest Network.
Looking at the various coastlines of the US, the report says that the Atlantic from Maine to Florida has two advantages– strong, consistent wind and a shallow continental shelf (into which you could anchor the wind turbines). This technology already exists and is widely used, so it is a no-brainer. Offshore wind turbines there could generate 4,6000 terawatt-hours of electricity annually, which is four times as much power as the coastal states themselves used in 2019.
The Atlantic Coast is clearly the gold mine for offshore wind in the US.
Off the Pacific Coast you have a deep and narrow continental shelf, so you couldn’t sink the turbines into it. You’d have to use floating wind turbines out there, the way the United Kingdom is doing. You could get 869 terawatt-hours that way.
The Gulf isn’t as promising. It typically has low wind speeds, and its fishing and other sea-oriented industries might mind a lot of wind farms. Still, you could get 1,400 terawatt-hours of electricity from this region.
You could also site offshore wind farms in the Great Lakes. The report worries that seasonal ice floes could damage the floating turbines. I’ll let them in on a secret. There won’t be many ice floes after a while. Lake Ontario hit about 77 degrees F. in surface temperature last August, a record, and we’re only at the beginning. You could get 344 terawatt-hours there, which would be half of all the electricity the coastal states use.
The report says the federal government needs to set standards for the equipment, and step up its permitting game, as well as deploying tax subsidies for this industry, if it is to take off.