Biden’s 30 GW Offshore Wind Plans Face Many Headwinds

Highlights :

  • Offshore Wind faces resistance from many fronts, even as it becomes key for US plans to decarbonise.
  • The lessons have significance for India too, despite modest plans for offshore to 2025 and beyond.
Biden’s 30 GW Offshore Wind Plans Face Many Headwinds

Plans to lease much of the U.S. coastline — from the Gulf of Mexico to the Northeast, California and Oregon — for offshore wind farms by 2025 are likely to face a steady barrage of resistance from various constituents, as renewable energy faces the biggest problem fossil fuels largely bypass. The NIMBY syndrome, or (Not in My Backyard). Fossil fuels, by virtue of being extracted in places that are usually far off from populated areas or hidden away from plain sight, have never faced the level of pushback that solar, and now wind energy have been facing in the past few years.

President Joe Biden has declared a 30 GW offshore wind target as part of his massive renewables push. Offshore wind was considered more palatable, after the barrage of resistance and protests against onshore wind especially in recent years.

Decarbonising the grid by 2035 is a stated goal of the administration, which will need a huge change in strategy to  manage such pushbacks. Including much larger targets eventually from both Solar and offshore wind.

Offshore wind turbines have run up against local residents on aesthetic grounds, besides businesses who worry about negative effects such as damage to fisheries. So the Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM), which is part of the Department of Interior, first determines what areas are going to be leased through meetings and gathering public comments.

Leasing rights are then auctioned in the chosen locations.

Winning developers have to submit a “construction and operations plan,” through federal review under the National Environmental Policy Act, which goes through a fresh feedback process.

Before wind farm developers can actually start building, there are also state government permits, and multiple opportunities for anyone opposed to bring a lawsuit. One project off the coast of Massachusetts that received approval earlier this year is now being sued by neighbors who say it will harm whales, a coalition of fishing industry groups and of course, the rich who claim it obstructs their views.

That means a 10 year time frame at times to go from plans to installation for offshore wind.

Other issues include the dependence on mostly European firms for components, A domestic manufacturing base would be a lot more welcome as in any other large market. Interestingly, high domestic gas production also means reluctance to switch, as offshore remains a more expensive option than gas powered power. After taking out the aberration in gas prices currently.

For India, which has yet to start on its offshore journey, the US example serves a warning of what to expect, as  offshore would face far many more challenges here, including the key issue of cost, which has kept it off our shores so far.

While the current high gas prices have made it competitive with gas, in the long term, it should remain a more pricey option.

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