A Reason for Hope in 2018: The US Offshore Wind Power Race is On!

Just one month in, 2018 is already proving to be a pivotal year for American offshore wind power – a game-changing yet untapped resource that can create thousands of jobs while powering our economy with clean energy.  With two major announcements in New Jersey and New York just this week, America’s emerging offshore wind market is finally taking shape.

As of today, these states have joined Massachusetts, Maryland, and Rhode Island in creating a pipeline of offshore wind development that will power over 3 million homes by 2030. These combined state commitments total approximately 8,000 MW, which is just over half the installed capacity of offshore wind power around the world (over 14,000 MW across 14 countries) that supports over 85,000 jobs.

While we are late to the game, the combined leadership of these states has sent a powerful signal to the booming offshore wind industry that America is finally serious about harnessing offshore wind power. National Wildlife Federation strongly supports the responsible development of our offshore wind resource as a critical climate change solution, and we are optimistic that we can achieve great progress in 2018 with this unprecedented momentum.

States along the east coast are now vying to land the transformational investments and economic development this new offshore wind market will deliver.  Last year, we saw both New York (90 MW South Fork Wind Farm) and Maryland (2 projects totaling 368MW) commit to specific offshore wind projects, positioning them for early job creation opportunities. All eyes are now on state leaders to clarify the timeline for additional project commitments needed to achieve the offshore wind goals of Massachusetts (1,600 MW), New York (2,400 MW), and New Jersey (3,500 MW). These decisions will influence how the U.S. offshore wind industry develops, so early action and collaboration will be critical in the years ahead to maximize overall economic opportunities across the region and ensure the protection of regionally connected natural resources in the process.

Here’s a quick snapshot of recent offshore wind news and a preview of what to look for as the race continues in 2018:

New Jersey: Welcome Governor Murphy!

Yesterday, just two weeks after being sworn into office, Governor Phil Murphy revived an offshore wind policy that has been sitting stagnant for over seven years, securing a place for New Jersey among the front of the pack. He signed an Executive Order committing the state to generate 3,500 MW of offshore wind power – the largest commitment in the nation and enough to power over 1.5 million homes. As a first step, the state will fully implement the 2010 Offshore Wind Economic Development Act and move forward with a solicitation for 1,100 MW. Just before signing the Order, Governor Murphy underscored the urgency of climate change and his determination to hit the ground running.

Governor Phil Murphy just before signing an Executive Order to advance offshore wind power. Photo: NWF

“We have a lot to do so we better get to it.”

– Governor Murphy, as he made the nation’s largest offshore wind commitment

Governor Murphy’s announcement is precisely the kind of leadership needed to jumpstart offshore wind power for New Jersey and the nation. The Order directs the state to explore collaboration with northeast and mid-Atlantic states in pursuit of this regional energy opportunity. National Wildlife Federation and our state affiliate, New Jersey Audubon, are thrilled to see the Garden State get back in the race and look forward to working with the Murphy Administration to ensure all development moves forward with stringent wildlife protections in place every step of the way. Read our statements here.

New York: A Strong Goal and a Clear Plan

Governor Cuomo kicked off the new year with a nation-leading pledge to procure 800 MW of offshore wind power by 2019 in pursuit of the New York’s 2,400 MW goal. The Governor highlighted New York’s commitment to offshore wind power in his State of the State speech earlier this month, stating: We are excited about it and hope you are too.” National Wildlife Federation was proud to join a diverse coalition of environmental, business, and labor leaders and a bipartisan group of elected officials applauding this statement and calling for swift action to deliver on its promise. Just this week, New York State released an Offshore Wind Master Plan and submitted a filing to the Public Service Commission outlining options for delivering on this commitment.

“We are drawing upon our world-class workforce, unmatched intellectual capital, physical infrastructure and financial institutions to develop this increasingly affordable clean energy source that creates good paying jobs while protecting Long Island’s natural beauty and quality of life.”

– Governor Cuomo in Jan. 29 press release

While applauding these actions, National Wildlife Federation and our partners in the New York Offshore Wind Alliance reiterated the urgency of finalizing the contracting timeline and process needed to move responsibly developed projects forward and launch New York’s offshore wind industry (press release here).

Massachusetts: On Deck for the Nation’s Next Project Commitments

After taking the lead in 2016, signing into law America’s largest offshore power commitment to date at 1,600 MW, Massachusetts needs to take a long stride this year to hold its place as the trailblazer. In his State of the Commonwealth Address last week, Governor Charlie Baker previewed what’s in store:

“Later this year, we’ll complete a competitive process that could lead to the construction of the largest offshore wind power operation in the nation. This effort will further reduce emissions, create thousands of green jobs in places like New Bedford and solidify our standing as a global leader in innovation and clean energy.”

The Baker Administration is currently reviewing project proposals from three offshore wind developers seeking to build projects ranging from 200 to 800 MW in size, all more than 10 miles offshore. Winners will be announced in late April. The bar has been set high, and Massachusetts has the opportunity to raise it.

Clean Energy Momentum is More Important than Ever

This unprecedented momentum to launch America’s offshore wind industry could not come at a more important time. As 2017 goes into the record books as a year of devastating hurricanes, wildfires, and floods, and blazing heat, it is clear that we must accelerate our transition to responsibly developed clean energy. The stress our electric grid endures during extreme winter weather events (and the spiking costs and plunging air quality that comes with it) underscores the urgency of diversifying our energy system and prioritizing the sources that can rise to the challenge. (see Electric Utilities Turn to Oil During Deep Freeze and a blog from National Wildlife Federation here highlighting how offshore wind offers a uniquely valuable solution.)

NWF works to ensure that all species, such as the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, are carefully protected during all stages of offshore wind power development. Photo by New England Aquarium, Collected under NMFS permit 14233

In the coming year, National Wildlife Federation will be working all along the coast to build on these early positive statements with tangible actions that can make 2018 the most productive year yet in America’s offshore wind story. We will also continue our critical work to ensure that strong environmental protections are in place every step of the way as all offshore wind projects are developed and new lease areas are considered.

Call on your Governor to be an offshore wind leader! 

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