The Biden administration will seek to approve more than a dozen offshore wind projects in the next four years and open new areas for leasing off the coast of California as it seeks to supercharge development of the nascent U.S. industry, an Interior Department official said on Tuesday.
The effort is part of the administration’s broader plan to fight climate change by decarbonizing the U.S. power sector by 2035 and the entire economy by 2050.
Amanda Lefton, director of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, told the Reuters U.S. Offshore Wind conference that the agency would complete the review at least 16 new offshore wind project plans by 2025.
The projects could add as much as 19 gigawatts of clean power to the U.S. grid, Lefton said, putting the nation well on its way to meeting President Joe Biden's goal to deploy 30 GW of offshore wind energy - enough to power 10 million homes - by 2030.
The administration also announced that it had identified two areas off the coast of California for offshore wind development, a critical milestone in its aim to expand the nascent U.S. industry to Pacific waters. The two areas, one off the central coast and another off northern California, could eventually be home to 4.6 gigawatts of offshore wind projects, enough to power 1.6 million homes, it said.
The projects will also assist California in seeking to remove fossil fuels from its power grid by 2045.
Interior earlier in May approved the nation's first commercial-scale offshore wind farm, the Vineyard Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts. With just two small offshore wind facilities, the United States is decades behind Europe in developing the technology.
"The action to date that the Biden-Harris administration has taken really demonstrates a sea change for offshore wind, representing a government-wide approach which will catalyze the industry," Lefton said.
BOEM has leased 1.7 million acres of the U.S. outer continental shelf for offshore wind development, she said, with 17 commercial leases on the Atlantic coast, and expects to hold a new lease sale off the coast of New York by the end of this year or the beginning of 2022.
So far, most offshore wind development activity has happened on the U.S. east coast, but Lefton said the west coast is an area of "tremendous opportunity."
She said BOEM is working with state agencies and other federal agencies like the Department of Defense to identify areas for wind projects that have the "least impact for ocean users."
"I expect that we will move forward with offshore wind off the coast of California," Lefton told the conference. (Reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Nichola Groom; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Nick Zieminski)
(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Nichola Groom; Editing by Alexander Smith)