The offshore-wind industry is poised for exponential growth in the United States over the next decade, with the potential to provide enough power to meet nearly double the nation’s current electricity use, according to a new report.
Up to 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind could be developed along the East Coast, which may support up to 83,000 jobs and deliver $25 billion in annual economic output, the study by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) projected.
The report highlights the tremendous interest among coastal states in building a robust offshore wind industry. Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Virginia have established targets to procure a total of 25,400 megawatts of projects by at least 2035 as of this past February, the study noted.
Offshore-wind supply chain
These policies provide certainty and will spur investment in the offshore wind supply chain, according to the report. Each state is jockeying to land high-paying manufacturing jobs to supply key components of the supply chain needed to build out the offshore wind farms.
For instance, in New Jersey, Ørsted, a developer that has won the rights to build a 1,100-megawatt offshore wind farm off Atlantic City, and manufacturer EEW signed an agreement to establish a factory for steel foundations in Paulsboro in southern Jersey.
Currently, there is only one offshore wind farm operating in the U.S. by Ørsted, a small 30-megawatt project located three miles off the coast of Block Island, Rhode Island. But the federal government has awarded 15 wind-energy leases in various stages of development up and down the Eastern Seaboard.
“State leaders are seeing the environmental and economic promise of offshore wind and are stepping in to provide the vision and policies to help this industry quickly achieve scale,’’ said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA.
Market projections anticipate 20,000 megawatts to 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind capacity will be operational by 2030, representing an up to $57 billion investment in the nation’s economy, the report said.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy doubled the state’s goal of developing 3,500 megawatts of offshore wind last year, targeting 7,500 megawatts to be built by 2035.
NJ’s plans for offshore wind
So far, New Jersey has awarded Ørsted the first project to be built off its coast but plans additional solicitations every other year, beginning with the third quarter of 2020, until the beginning of 2028. If it succeeds, offshore wind farms could be providing clean energy to up to 3 million homes in the state.
“We are literally at the point in time where the most productive part of the renewable-energy sector will be offshore wind,” said Jeff Tittel, director of the New Jersey Sierra Club.
The study concurred, saying the offshore wind industry is well-positioned to achieve significant growth and deliver jobs and economic benefits along the East Coast and the rest of the country as well.
A sample of the jobs the industry will create includes electricians, welders, turbine technicians, longshoremen, truck drivers, crane operators, ironworkers, pipefitters, pile drivers, engineers, mechanics, scientists and offshore-equipment and vessel operators.
“These offshore-wind benefits will not be limited to coast states where the projects are built,’’ the report argued. “While activity will be concentrated in coastal states close to the offshore-wind projects, chains and service providers across the country will have an opportunity to support this new industry.’’