Here at the BlueGreen Alliance, we believe a variety of clean energy sources will power a 21st century clean economy. But wind holds a special place in our hearts as a vast and vital resource. We aren’t alone in that sentiment either, as development in the industry has pushed installed capacity up by 35% in just 5 years and action on clean energy tax credits has become a presidential campaign issue and adopted and encouraged by Fortune 500 companies.
While the job creation (and job loss) potential for the American wind industry is very real, we think it’s important to draw attention to the 1,300 gigwatt gorilla in the room: Atlantic coast offshore wind. With no operating facilities in the United States, offshore wind remains a gleam in the eye for those wishing to power this country with strong renewable energy and create good jobs while they’re at it.
Thankfully, those with big plans for offshore wind have been busy! The Obama administration has taken leaps and bounds, streamlining processes for siting offshore wind facilities and developers have been racing for the title of “First in the Water”, while contending with the financial ebb and flow of looming tax program expirations.
Despite political rhetoric, Americans seem to be on the same page in their support for renewable energy, according to recent polls, with wind being a popular choice, specifically offshore, in states with considerable stake in the game. Institutions and advocates have been doing what they do best to turn the volume up on this exciting call to action.
BlueGreen Alliance partner the National Wildlife Federation released a comprehensive update on the state-of-play of offshore wind in the United States, revealing an impressive body of work waiting to come to fruition for American energy consumers. Stanford researchers drew attention to offshore wind’s unique availability in comparison to onshore with an impressive quantification of the actual offshore wind resource in relation to US electricity needs, revealing that one-third of the United States or the entire eastern seaboard from Maine to Florida could be powered by offshore wind.
This is what we are talking about when we talk about potential.
Fast-forward less than a month, to this week, where the American Wind Energy Association hosted its 2012 Offshore Windpower Conference in Virginia Beach, creating the largest meeting of the minds on the subject, at a pivotal moment in the industry’s history. Among the many announcements that have been made, was one by Atlantic Wind Connection(AWC), a company backed by Google, and hoping to create a unifying transmission root system for potential offshore wind turbine forests along the Atlantic coast.
AWC announced the findings of a report showing that with the construction of 7 GW of offshore wind capacity (enough to power over 2 million homes), over 170,000 jobs would be created in the region, adding $19 billion to US GDP and federal, state and local revenues by $4.6 billion. That breaks down to 70,000 direct jobs in manufacturing components; 40,000 jobs along the supply chain; and 50,000 jobs from the induced economic impact.
At a time when employment numbers teeter on decimal points and some of the greatest industrial sectors of the American economy are scrapping for all the work they can get, AWC’s report provides the latest salvo in support of renewable, American energy that uplifts across the board, supporting high-quality job creation in areas we, as a country, need it most.
It is enough that our massive offshore wind resources can play a foundational role in an energy portfolio for the United States. But what this report, and those previous, imply is a newer, more considered trend to how we approach energy policy for the 21st century. By developing our energy and its infrastructure in a manner that includes the sustainability of the resource, the compounded effects of its use, and its implications for the American economy, more broadly, we make smarter, longer-term investments.
The establishment of a robust offshore wind industry in the United States would represent a concerted effort towards advanced energy for our future. Turning this potential into reality will, for now, require the support of state and federal governments. Renewable Portfolio Standards and the implementation of specific offshore wind programs, such as New Jersey’s “OREC” program drive regional growth. The Investment Tax Credit for offshore wind specifically, has passed out of the Senate Finance Committee and awaits reciprocal action in the House. You can urge your congressman to support it.
So while there are some hurdles ahead for an American-made offshore industry, and it is important we continue to work for its responsible and effective development, it seems that more and more people are confident in knowing which way the wind blows.