Three Key Challenges for Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic States Scaling Up Off-Shore Wind Generation

By Arthur Rypinski, NEMWI Senior Fellow

This first in a projected series of off-shore wind related Northeast-Midwest Institute (NEMWI) Issue Briefs summarizes the Biden Administration’s off-shore wind development initiative and discusses three key challenges to its execution.

On March 29, the Biden Administration announced a new off-shore wind initiative, aimed at deploying some 30 gigawatts of new offshore wind energy in the United States. This initiative is part of a larger effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions worldwide by setting an example. President Biden told world leaders that the United States expects to reduce emissions by 50 to 52 percent by 2030.

The Administration is limited in what it can attempt or accomplish within existing legal authorities. Yet, off-shore wind development and deployment is an area where the Federal government has useful discretionary authority. Still, the legal regime for off-shore wind is complicated, and as in many government activities, the details are usually consequential.

While the United States has built over 100 gigawatts of wind energy capacity over the past 20 years, less than 0.4% has been off-shore. There are no off-shore projects currently under construction. Meanwhile, the United Kingdom has installed more than 10 gigawatts of off-shore capacity, and Germany now has about 5 gigawatts. Off-shore winds are typically stronger and less variable than on-shore winds, and thus permit larger capacity turbines with higher capacity factors.

Nonetheless, the Administration appears to have the necessary legal authorities to undertake this initiative. Some observers believe that a conjunction of available technologies, willing investors, available customers, and a favorable tax and policy regime make rapid progress in development and deployment of generation capacity in this part of the clean energy spectrum along the northeastern and Mid-Atlantic seaboard a realistic opportunity.

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Wind Generation Issue Brief — Arthur Rypinski — June 1, 2021