US holds biggest ever offshore wind sale along New York and New Jersey coastline

President Biden has pledged to decarbonise the US electrical grid by 2035

Louise Boyle
Senior Climate Correspondent, New York
Wednesday 23 February 2022 17:52 GMT
Wind-powered shipping boat able to carry 7000 cars

Half a million acres were up for grabs on Wednesday along the New York and New Jersey coastline in the US’s largest ever offshore sale for wind power.

It is the first offshore sale for the renewable power by the Biden administration. President Joe Biden has pledged to decarbonize the US electric grid by 2035 as part of his plans to tackle the climate crisis.

The ramping up of wind projects, along with solar, is transitioning the US away from fossil fuels which are causing planet-heating emissions and driving extreme climate impacts.

The leases are in 488,201 acres of shallow waters in an area called the New York Bight, between Long Island and New Jersey. Offshore wind developers were bidding on six areas on Wednesday, the most areas ever offered in a single auction.

The leases could result in enough wind energy to power nearly 2 million homes. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said last month that the US was at an “inflection point” for domestic offshore wind energy.

The areas up for wind power development in New York Bight, an area between Long Island and New Jersey

According to Interior, the New York Bight auction includes some “innovative” stipulations “designed to promote the development of a robust domestic US supply chain for offshore wind and enhance engagement with Tribes, the commercial fishing industry, other ocean users, and underserved communities”.

There are incentives for sourcing major components like blades, turbines, and foundations in the US, along with labour agreements to ensure projects are union-built, as the country seeks to catch up to Europe and China in developing its renewable power sector.

The Democratic governors of New York and New Jersey have thrown their support behind the projects as a major step towards decarbonisation, while also providing skilled jobs.

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy said that his state is committed to creating nearly one-quarter of the nation’s offshore wind-generation market.

NY Governor Kathy Hochul said: “Here in New York, we are already living with the effects of climate change through extreme weather that pose a direct threat to our way of life.

“We must chart an ambitious path toward a cleaner energy economy now more than ever, and today’s milestone further highlights New York’s commitment to reaching its offshore wind goals.”

The move is a big leap in US offshore wind power development which currently only has two small facilities, off Rhode Island and Virginia.

The first commercial-scale offshore project called Vineyard Wind has been approved,15 miles from the Massachusetts coastline. It will generate renewable energy for more than 400,000 homes.

The Interior Department has identified six other areas for potential lease sales by 2025 including offshore of the Carolinas and California later this year, and subsequently in the Central Atlantic, Gulf of Maine, the Gulf of Mexico, and offshore Oregon.

Wind energy provides more than 10 per cent of total electricity generation in 16 states, according to the Department of Energy, and nearly a third in Kansas, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Oklahoma.

In 2020, wind energy supplied more than 8 per cent of total US electricity generation.

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