Offshore wind energy is on the rise. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), there are 35,324 megawatts (MW) in different development stages (up 24% from 2019), and 15 projects in the pipeline have entered the permitting phase. That pipeline includes Rhode Island’s Block Island Wind Farm and the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project in Virginia Beach, Va.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which is the agency regulating energy development in federal waters, has noted nine areas where future development is being considered. The industry needs people to develop, manufacture, construct and operate the wind turbines, as well as to build or retrofit the necessary manufacturing facilities and the transmission infrastructure for the energy they produce.
The Biden Administration announced a goal of deploying 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2030 to create tens of thousands of jobs. This will also provide power to 10 million homes and avoid 78 million metric tons of CO2 emissions. It is the first U.S. national offshore wind energy goal. Meeting this target will also make a path to 110 GW and generate 77,000 offshore wind jobs by 2050.
The administration also set aside $230 million for port upgrades and $3 billion through the DOE’s Loan Programs Office. BOEM announced environmental reviews for Vineyard Wind, off the Massachusetts coast, and South Fork, near Long Island.
It takes about 8,000 parts to make each machine, but most factories making turbine components are in Europe. DOE estimates the United States will need one steel mill, two monopile factories, two tower factories, two blade factories, two nacelle factories and eight cable factories to meet Biden’s goal. According to the American Wind Energy Association, Washington, D.C., “development, construction and operations will support 19,000 to 45,000 jobs by 2025 and 45,000 to 83,000 jobs by 2030.”
On December 17, 2021, officials in Maryland and Massachusetts announced two offshore wind projects that will general 1,654.5 MW and 1,600 MW, respectively. Maryland has 2,022 MW of offshore wind capacity, and Massachusetts has 3,200 MW of capacity.
All these projects have the potential to benefit minority and disadvantaged communities through jobs and economic infusion a large manufacturing facility will provide. For example, Dominion Energy in Virginia plans to deploy the largest U.S. offshore wind project. The 2.6-GW project’s development will have component manufacturing and assembly facilities in Portsmouth, a city with an estimated 18% poverty rate.
Before being shipped out to sea, the Vineyard Wind turbines will be assembled in New Bedford, Mass., a city with a 20% poverty rate. The project’s community liaisons are encouraging those in underrepresented communities to explore the industry’s possibilities.
Agreements can also ensure minorities don’t get left out. Maryland requires developers to make “serious, good-faith efforts” to seek minority investors. In Vineyard Wind’s labor agreement, 20% of jobs will be reserved for people of color and 10% for women.