America’s new ocean energy resource
The U.S. has a vast offshore wind energy resource. Our shores possess a power potential of more than 4,000 gigawatts (GW), over four times the generating capacity of the current U.S. electrical system. This potential presents an enormous opportunity to deliver large amounts of clean and reliable electricity to the country’s largest population centers, where it’s needed most.
State policies in Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and others are vital drivers for the offshore wind industry. These policies will help achieve scale and develop an American supply chain. With stable policy in place, the Department of Energy found that the U.S. could install a total of 22,000 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind projects by 2030 and 86,000 MW by 2050, creating thousands of well-paying jobs in coastal communities.
In fact, a study co-authored by New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and the Clean Energy States Alliance finds that 8 GW of offshore wind from Maryland to Maine will create over 36,000 full-time U.S. jobs in the next 10 years.
Besides creating jobs, harnessing America’s offshore wind resources will revitalize ports and coastal communities, improve national security, and deliver vast amounts of reliable energy to America’s biggest population centers. Land-based wind supports over 105,000 American jobs already, and scaling up offshore wind development holds similar promise for U.S. job growth. Offshore wind is also drawing new investments to the United States, including the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal in Massachusetts and a $35 million MHI Vestas turbine gearbox testing facility at Clemson University.
Offshore wind development will also tap into the skills of workers in existing U.S. oil and gas companies, which have decades of experience developing ocean energy infrastructure. A study by the Workforce Development Institute found that 74 different occupations are needed during the various stages of planning, development and operation of offshore wind farms. And as offshore wind continues to grow, costs will continue to fall, saving money for families and businesses alike.
“There is enormous opportunity, especially off the East Coast, for wind. I am very bullish,” said Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. “Market excitement is moving towards offshore wind. I haven't seen this kind of enthusiasm from industry since the Bakken shale boom.”
After years of hard work, the nation's first offshore wind project, the Block Island Wind Farm, came online in 2016. The Block Island Wind Farm (BIWF), developed by Deepwater Wind, is a 30 MW project with five 6-MW turbines off the coast of Block Island, Rhode Island. More than a year after the wind farm came online, the reviews are in: electricity prices are down, tourism is up, and the island has high-speed internet for the first time. America’s first offshore wind farm is an American success story.
With world-class wind resources on the East and West Coasts and in the Great Lakes, infrastructure and offshore energy expertise, the U.S. is primed to scale up offshore wind power. The U.S. Department of the Interior is charting a path forward for additional offshore wind lease areas. That will transform offshore wind’s enormous potential into a concrete pillar of American energy dominance while spurring new manufacturing and shipbuilding.
There are currently 12 active commercial leases for offshore wind development in the U.S. If all leases are fully built, there is the potential to support approximately 15 GW of offshore wind capacity. Industry experts and analysts believe that the U.S. offshore wind industry will continue to take off in the years ahead, bringing with it a new and prosperous American industry.