Biden Greenlights First Large-Scale Offshore Wind Farm

The wind farms will produce enough electricity to power 10 million homes.

off shore wind farm

Michael Betts / Getty Images

The White House approved the United State’s first large-scale offshore wind farm on Wednesday. The 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind project will help the Biden administration achieve its goal of slashing greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector to zero by 2035. 

“A clean energy future is within our grasp in the United States. The approval of this project is an important step toward advancing the Administration's goals to create good-paying union jobs while combatting climate change and powering our nation,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, the country’s first Native American cabinet secretary.

The $2.8 billion wind farm will be built about 15 miles off the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts. It will consist of 84 wind turbines that will generate enough energy to power 400,000 homes. The project will feature Haliade-X turbines with 351-feet long blades—longer than a football field—which manufacturer General Electric describes as “the most powerful offshore wind turbine in the world.” 

They will be at least one nautical mile away from one another to allow fishing boats to operate in the area. 

Vineyard Wind is a 50/50 joint venture between Avangrid Renewables, controlled by Spain’s energy giant Iberdrola and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, a Danish firm that specializes in wind power investments.

The approval of the project will kickstart a “clean energy revolution,” Vineyard Wind said in a statement.

“Today’s Record of Decision is not about the start of a single project, but the launch of a new industry,” CEO Lars T. Pedersen said.

Vineyard Wind is expected to start producing energy in 2023. Once it is fully operational, it will help avoid nearly 1.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually—the equivalent of taking 325,000 cars off the road.

The First of Many

The Biden administration aims to build offshore wind farms along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts that will be able to produce 30 gigawatts of energy by 2030—enough to power 10 million homes. Its goal is to greenlight 16 new offshore wind projects by 2025 that will have a combined production capacity of 19 gigawatts.

President Joe Biden’s embracing of clean energy comes in stark contrast to former President Trump, whose policies hampered the growth of the renewable energy sector and who falsely claimed that wind turbines cause cancer.

About a dozen offshore wind projects are planned for New York Bight—an area of shallow waters between Long Island and the New Jersey coast that the Biden administration has designated as the country’s “priority Wind Energy Area.”

These projects will supply energy to New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, which are home to more than 20 million people.

New offshore wind projects nationwide will create around 44,000 direct jobs and 33,000 indirect jobs in the steel, shipbuilding, and manufacturing sectors, the White House says. That may sound like a lot but if the Biden administration can push ahead with its plans, there will be around 2,000 wind turbines along the Atlantic coast within a decade.

Experts say that one of the main challenges will be obtaining the necessary permits, a cumbersome process that often takes several years. Vineyard Wind had to obtain over 25 federal, state, and local permits and authorizations.

Eventually, when all these projects are built, they will help the United States avoid 78 million metric tons of CO2 emissions. The next offshore wind farm likely to be greenlighted by the White House is the 1.1 gigawatt Ocean Wind off the coast of New Jersey, which will have up to 98 turbines. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement for the project.

Compared to Europe, the United State's offshore wind energy sector is in its infancy: There are 116 offshore wind farms across 12 European countries and energy companies agreed to invest $31.7 billion in new offshore energy projects last year alone.