3 Reasons 2016 was America’s Best Year Ever for Offshore Wind Power

Without a doubt, 2016 will go down in history as a pivotal year in America’s energy story.  Right now, for the first time ever, the strong consistent winds far offshore are powering America’s homes and businesses with wildlife-friendly clean energy. The National Wildlife Federation strongly supports the responsible development of offshore wind power and has been working for years to advance this transformational climate solution far off our shores.

Here are three reasons why 2016 was the best year ever for American offshore wind power, and why we are so optimistic about what’s possible in 2017:

1. America’s First Offshore Wind Turbines are Online!

NWF staff and board members celebrate the Block Island  Wind Farm with RI Senator Jack Reed. Photo by NWF
NWF staff and board members celebrate the Block Island Wind Farm with RI Senator Jack Reed. Photo by NWF

Last week, the Block Island Wind Farm began producing power off the coast of Rhode Island. With this historic milestone, we have joined the 14 other countries around the world already tapping into the booming global offshore wind industry that supports over 75,000 jobs. Over 300 local workers built this landmark 30 megawatt (MW) project which is now providing clean power to over 17,000 homes. Check out this first-hand account from a recent tour of the project that NWF hosted for over 100 labor and economic development leaders, showcasing the incredible story of America’s debut project.

The Block Island Wind Farm serves as a shining model of what is possible, why it is worth reaching for, and how to ensure all voices are heard in the pursuit of this game-changing clean energy solution. Most importantly to the National Wildlife Federation, the Block Island Wind Farm has proven that offshore wind power can be a very wildlife-friendly energy source when sited and constructed with strong environmental protections in place. NWF has always held tight to the conviction that the U.S. offshore wind industry needs to model responsible development right from the start, and we worked directly with project developer Deepwater Wind to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales every step of the way.

2. Massachusetts Took Historic Action to Launch Offshore Wind Power

The Block Island Wind Farm is America’s first offshore wind project, but if we are to benefit from the many economic and environmental benefits of offshore wind power, it cannot be the last. In order to truly launch a U.S. offshore wind industry, we need our state leaders to embrace offshore wind power as a pillar of their energy future. NWF is working along the coast to help make that happen, and we achieved a pivotal victory this summer as Massachusetts made history with the largest-ever state commitment to offshore wind power. Republican Governor Charlie Baker signed a bill that requires the Commonwealth to produce 1,600 MW of electricity from offshore wind – enough to power over a half million homes and establish the largest offshore wind market in the country.

Governor Baker signs the bill! Photo by NWF
Governor Baker signs the nation’s largest offshore wind commitment into law! Photo by NWF

Shortly after Governor Baker signed the energy bill into law, all three project developers with leases in New England signed an agreement to use the Marine Commerce Terminal in New Bedford moving forward. In the coming years, the Commonwealth could support thousands of new local jobs, increase the portion of energy dollars that stays in-state, stabilize electric rates, and ensure a large-scale supply of pollution-free energy.

3. The Stars Are Aligned for Big Progress in New York

With the first turbines in the water and the largest state commitment on the books, we are well on our way to launching American offshore wind power. But that’s not the end of the story!  Last week, we saw a historic investment in the U.S. offshore wind market – over $40 million – as the major energy company Statoil purchased a lease for wind energy development off the coast of New York. The State of New York has been clear that offshore wind power is essential for meeting Governor Cuomo’s goal of 50% renewable energy by 2030, and this very competitive lease sale demonstrated record-setting industry interest in the massive economic opportunity off our shores.

Offshore Wind Power Rally on Long Island, December 2016. Photo by Citizens Campaign for the Environment
Offshore Wind Power Rally on Long Island, December 2016. Photo by Citizens Campaign for the Environment

And there’s still more! Just this week, following the largest pro-offshore wind rally in New York, the Long Island Power Authority affirmed that they are weeks away from finalizing a contract for a 90 MW project – 3 times the size of the Block Island Wind Farm – which will be America’s second and largest offshore wind project.

Let’s Keep It Up!

Block Island Wind Farm at sunrise. Photo by Deepwater Wind
Block Island Wind Farm at sunrise. Photo by Deepwater Wind

This momentum for offshore wind power in 2016 is great news for wildlife and all of us who need clean air, clean water, and a sustainable climate. And it makes economic sense as well. Overseas, the cost of offshore wind power has dropped so dramatically that it is now competitive with virtually every other form of energy, including fossil fuels. This is the opportunity before us – a massive, clean, affordable, job-creating new source of energy to power our economy. America will not get there overnight, but with continued leadership we can reach these extremely competitive prices within a decade.

2016’s historic progress in pursuit of offshore wind power for America would not have been possible without the active engagement of NWF’s supporters, partners, and allies across all sectors. We have got to keep the pressure on and ensure that our leaders continue to take clear and decisive steps forward to advance American offshore wind power. We have the wind at our backs and, together, we can make even greater progress in 2017!

Take ActionCall on your Governor to reach for the clean energy potential far off our shores!