New Report: Golden Opportunity of Atlantic Offshore Wind Power Finally Within Reach

Media Contacts

State Action Needed to Accelerate Wind Power, Benefit Ratepayers, Create Jobs, Cut Pollution

Environment America

Washington, D.C. — Over 1.5 million acres off the Atlantic coast already designated for wind energy development could generate over 16,000 megawatts of electricity (MW), enough to power over five million homes, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation released today with the support of over 40 cosponsoring organizations and leaders from business, labor, state, and local governments. Catching the Wind: State Actions Needed to Seize the Golden Opportunity of Atlantic Offshore Wind Power also contains a new analysis showing how the strong, consistent winds offshore can provide power to coastal states right when we need it most, bringing down energy costs and local pollution.

“American offshore wind power is finally within reach,” said Catherine Bowes, senior manager for climate and energy at the National Wildlife Federation. “With areas offshore that can power five million homes currently available for leasing, we’ve reached a critical moment for state leaders to seize this golden opportunity and create a clean energy future powered by American workers that can protect our wildlife and communities from the dangers of climate change,”

Catching the Wind highlights key progress made to date in America’s pursuit of offshore wind power, finding a strong correlation between proactive state efforts and tangible steps forward in advancing offshore wind power:
• America’s First Offshore Wind Projects are on Track for Construction in 2015. Two leading projects, Cape Wind in Massachusetts and the Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island, are within sight of the finish line with permits and/or leases and power contracts in hand and plans announced by the developers to begin offshore construction next year.
• Areas Already Designated for Offshore Wind Development Could Power Over 5 Million American Homes. As a result of significant federal leadership, there is a massive, local clean power opportunity currently available to state energy planners with the capacity to power the equivalent of all households in New Jersey and South Carolina combined. What’s needed now is action by state leaders to drive offshore wind markets and spur critical project contracts forward.
• Offshore Wind Power Could Save Millions as Part of a Diverse Energy Portfolio. Diversifying the east coast’s energy mix is critical for protecting ratepayers from price spikes in the volatile fossil fuel markets. The report highlights a new 2014 study finding a $350 million per year reduction in energy costs from adding 1,200 MW of offshore wind energy to New England’s grid.
• Offshore Wind Power Will Spark Massive Job Creation in the United States. In Europe, 70 offshore wind projects across 10 countries are currently supporting over 58,000 jobs in both coastal and inland communities. Today, offshore wind power is a booming global industry with over $20 billion in annual investments projected for the next 10 years.
• Offshore Wind Power Can Help States Meet New Carbon Pollution Limits. Coastal states have a massive untapped pollution-free energy source sitting right off their shores that can play a major role in meeting the carbon emission reduction targets required by the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan released last month.
• Offshore Wind Power is an Environmentally Responsible Energy Choice: As decades of experience in Europe indicates, strong environmental requirements can ensure that offshore wind power is sited, constructed, and operated in a manner that protects coastal and marine wildlife. This immense clean energy source offers an incredible opportunity to reduce pollution that threatens current and future generations of people and wildlife.

“With the Commonwealth’s support, New Bedford is now poised to play a central role in the nation’s burgeoning offshore wind energy industry.” Said Mayor Jon Mitchell of New Bedford, Massachusetts. “Construction is underway on a first-of-its-kind $100 million port facility specially designed to support the staging and assembly of offshore wind turbines. Strong state commitments to offshore wind power are needed to maximize this tremendous opportunity to build a national industry and grow jobs not only for our city but across the region.”

“It’s time to launch an American offshore wind industry that can join the 58,000 people already working on offshore wind in Europe,” said Mayor Keith Summey of North Charleston, South Carolina. “The winds are right here ready to be harvested, the technology is already proven, and we have workers ready to do the job. Let’s get to work.”

In five recommendations, the report challenges Atlantic Coast leaders to move forward with the following key actions in order to build the long term market certainty needed to fully launch offshore wind power for America:

1. Set a bold goal for offshore wind power in state energy plans.
2. Take action to ensure a competitive market for offshore wind power by: passing and implementing policies to directly advance offshore wind power and reduce pollution across the electricity sector; pursuing regional market-building opportunities; and supporting key federal incentives.
3. Advance critical contracts for offshore wind projects, including facilitating and approving necessary power purchase contracts and rate recovery proposals and pursuing regional procurement opportunities.
4. Ensure an efficient, environmentally responsible leasing process by working closely with the federal government and key experts and stakeholders to ensure transparency and strong protections for coastal and marine wildlife as offshore wind development moves forward.
5. Invest in key research, initiatives, and infrastructure helpful for advancing offshore wind development including baseline environmental data, stakeholder engagement initiatives, opportunities to maximize local supply chain and job creation, and upgrades to transmission or port facilities.

“The Utility Workers Union of America strongly supports an all of the above National Energy Policy, including the development of the offshore wind sector,” said Ed Good, Legislative Director of the Utility Workers Union of America. “From the iron ore mined to manufacture the steel foundations to the actual delivery of offshore wind power, this is a tremendous opportunity for working families, communities, and business job growth. UWUA currently has members with the necessary skill sets to safely and efficiently operate, maintain and provide energy delivery for this new and exciting form of generation and we look forward to playing a key role in the offshore wind market.”

“The winds off our coasts are poised to provide Atlantic Coast states with tremendous amounts of pollution-free energy that can meet our energy needs while reducing pollution that is altering our climate,” said Rob Sargent, energy program director for Environment America. “To reap the environmental and economic benefits of offshore wind, we need a strong commitment from state leaders, in partnership with the federal government and key stakeholders.”