Biden Administration Approves Major Offshore Wind Sites, Storage Still needed

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Yesterday the Secretary of the Interior, Deb Haaland, announced a push for major off-shore wind expansion off nearly every coastline of the U.S. continental coast. The announcement comes on the heels of the Administration’s approval of the Vineyard Wind Project off the coasts of Nantucket and Martha Vineyard.

In May, the Interior Department issued the final Federal permit needed to move ahead with Vineyard Wind. The record of decision, or ROD, published under the department’s Bureau of Energy Management leadership, paved the way for the development of the first commercial off-shore wind energy project in the U.S.  How big?   Once fully functional, the Vineyard Wind 1 project will have the potential to produce 800 megawatts of carbon-free renewable energy. That’s enough electricity to power approximately 400,000 homes. And not to be understated, the project will also provide up to 3600 well-paying jobs during construction.

On Wednesday, Secretary Haaland’s Interior Department continued the push for off-shore wind development by announcing ambitious plans to approve off-shore sites ranging in geographic diversity from the Gulf of Maine, the Carolina Coast, the Gulf of Mexico, and off the coasts of California and Oregon.

The Administration’s push for development off the California Coast should come as no surprise. In May, the Administration signed an agreement with California seeking to jointly advance regions of the state’s central and northern coasts for off-shore wind development. The agreement between the Department of Defense, the Interior Department, and the state identified 4.6 gigawatts of potential development off the coastline that could produce enough power for the electricity needs of 1.6 million homes.

Yesterday’s announcement, the approval of the Vineyard Wind project, and the signing of the California Federal collaborative effort in May come within an overall push by the Biden Administration to exponentially increase the capacity of off-shore Wind in U.S. Waters.

How much of a push?  Currently, there are only 42 megawatts of operational off-shore wind capacity spread over two sites.  The Administration is calling for 30 gigawatts of off-shore wind to be in the U.S. generation portfolio by 2030.   There were already 28.5 gigawatts in the approval pipeline before the Administration came into office in January. Yet, under the leadership of Secretary Haaland, the Administration has taken steps to streamline permitting to hasten its development.

The Administration deserves credit in its zeal to speed the development of off-shore wind resources off nearly every U.S. Continental coastline. However, we must still not forget the need to develop additional energy or power storage facilities to manage the massive influx of intermittent (not readily available) electricity that these off-shore sites will provide.

Energy Fairness has consistently discussed the need for additional energy storage resources. Battery storage technology continues to improve in its capacity to store, and we’ve applauded those efforts.

However, pumped hydropower energy storage still accounts for over 90% of U.S. energy storage capacity, according to the non-partisan Energy Information Administration. Based on this fact, we have continually discussed the merits of pumped hydropower facilities under development like the Goldendale project in the Oregon/Washington border and the Eagle Mountain project just 60 miles to the east of Palm Springs.

The development of the Biden Administration’s off-shore wind sites coupled with the renaissance of pumped hydropower storage and the continued birth of battery technologies will provide the bridge to a new energy carbon-free economy. But, more importantly, it will be done without sacrificing the affordability, reliability, and resiliency of energy to which energy consumers have become accustomed.