US Offshore Wind Ready to Grow, If Courts Give Go Ahead

May 3, 2022


Russia’s murderous rampage through Ukraine has lit a spark of hope in the chests of fossil fuel stakeholders, who are banking on the war to spur more oil, gas, and coal extraction. However, they better keep that bubbly on ice. In the latest indication that the fossil fuel economy is withering on the vine, the Biden-Harris Administration is forging ahead with new offshore wind plans that will go where no wind turbines have ever gone before.

The technical electricity generation potential for wind turbines located in US waters is more than 2,000 gigawatts, but almost none of it has been tapped as yet. To date, the nation’s stock of offshore wind turbines in commercial operation clocks in for a combined capacity of just 42 megawatts, shared between a 5-turbine array in Rhode Island and a 2-turbine pilot project in Virginia.

Political interference has gummed up the works along the Atlantic coast, while economic and political factors are both at work in the Gulf coast, and technology challenges have stymied offshore development along the Pacific coast.

So much for the bad news. The good news is that the US offshore wind industry has plenty of room to grow. The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management laid the groundwork for a growth spurt several years ago by developing the nation’s first ever streamlined process for leasing federal areas for offshore wind development.

BOEM put the finishing touches on that process during the Trump administration, which is somewhat ironic considering the former President’s notorious aversion to wind turbines, especially those located offshore.

Nevertheless, the process is finally in place, and the US offshore wind industry is poised to blow right past President Biden’s somewhat modest goal of 30 gigawatts by 2030.

Last September, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory ran the numbers and observed that the US wind industry is off to a healthy re-start, with projects totaling more than 3.5 gigawatts already in the pipeline.

So far, all that pipeline activity is taking place along the Atlantic coast, where the relatively shallow waters enable standard fixed-platform, monopile offshore wind turbine construction. The Pacific states are far more challenging, as the water is generally too deep for standard turbine construction.

That’s where new floating turbine technology comes in. The field has taken off like a rocket in recent years, thanks in part to taxpayers in the US, who funded early-stage floating turbine R&D at the Energy Department’s test site in Coos Bay, Oregon during the Obama administration.

As is usual now, there are those privileged folks with narrow agendas seeking to gum up the works.

East Hampton Star:

A lawsuit seeking to stop the installation of an underground electric cable serving the South Fork Wind Farm was rejected by a federal judge last week.

The wind farm cable is to make landfall at Beach Lane in Wainscott and follow a subterranean path to a Long Island Power Authority substation in East Hampton. Work has begun along the route.


The website Law360 reported last week that Judge Frederic Block of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York said that the plaintiffs “failed to show that they were likely to suffer irreparable harm when workers dig trenches for underground cables that will connect to the offshore wind project.”

Law360 said that Judge Block noted that federal environmental reviews had taken concerns about PFAS contamination into account, and that the plaintiffs should have raised their concerns during the public review process. They did not demonstrate that irreparable harm was likely, he said.


A past opponent of the failed Cape Wind project is asking a federal court to oversee a similar outcome for Vineyard Wind, the first major offshore wind facility to be approved in the United States. 

In a lawsuit filed yesterday with the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Thomas Melone argued that federal regulators failed to consider Vineyard Wind’s impact on other ocean users, endangered species and onshore renewable developers. He asked the court to vacate the environmental permit for the 62-turbine project.

The lawsuit offers an early test for the next generation of America’s offshore wind farms. The outcome could determine whether they’re able to withstand the type of legal challenges that sank Cape Wind, which was abandoned after more than a decade of litigation.

Melone is president of Allco Renewable Energy Limited, a small-scale solar developer, and a part-time resident of Martha’s Vineyard. He has waged a series of mostly unsuccessful lawsuits in recent years challenging state renewable energy programs. 

Allco and Melone are listed as plaintiffs in the case, which cites 18 counts of alleged shortcomings in the federal review of Vineyard Wind. Among them is an allegation that federal regulators failed to evaluate the turbines’ ability to survive a Category 3 hurricane, which it says raises the risk of a turbine spilling oil during a storm. 

Another allegation contends regulators violated the Outer Continental Lands Shelf Act by approving a project that would leave a large swath of ocean off limits to commercial fishermen. And a third argues that federal officials did not properly account for the project’s greenhouse gas impacts, asserting that Vineyard Wind would depress investment in solar energy projects, thus exacerbating climate change. 

“Allco realizes that the energy sector must decarbonize as quickly as possible. However, ending the livelihoods of generations of fishermen and women, and quickening the extinction of marine species is the wrong and unnecessary path,” Melone wrote in an email. “Putting renewable energy on land creates more American jobs, does not put commercial fisheries out-of-business, is more secure and does not come with all the environmental risks of offshore wind.”

One Response to “US Offshore Wind Ready to Grow, If Courts Give Go Ahead”

  1. rhymeswithgoalie Says:

    I have dreams that some floor-mounted turbines can be turned into small reefs by the addition of a little organic matter (like that which comes of oil rigs in the form of food waste and human waste).

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