Biden Joins State Leaders Backing Push for Floating Wind Turbines

By: - September 16, 2022 12:00 am

The first floating offshore wind turbine “floatgen” is pictured off Le Croisic, western France. The Biden administration is betting on the emerging technology, which will be necessary to harness wind resources in deeper water. Sebastien Salom Gomis/AFP/Sipa via The Associated Press

The Biden administration is betting big on floating wind turbines — a technology that is still in its infancy — to be a significant part of the nation’s transition to renewable energy. The White House announced last week that it is aiming to deploy 15 gigawatts of floating offshore wind capacity by 2035, enough to power about 5 million homes. 

At present, only 0.1 gigawatts of capacity are produced by floating turbines across the globe. Floating wind projects are necessary to generate power in areas where coastal waters are too deep to fix turbines to the ocean floor, which in America includes the West Coast and the Gulf of Maine. 

“We think the private sector is going to quickly see the real opportunity here not only to triple the country’s accessible offshore wind resources but to make the U.S. a global leader in manufacturing and deploying offshore wind,” U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm told the Associated Press.

The Department of Energy announced nearly $50 million in investments for research and development of floating offshore technology. The administration also launched the Floating Offshore Wind Shot, an initiative that brings together multiple agencies with the aim of lowering the cost of offshore wind energy by more than 70%.

In a statement, the White House noted that “deep-water areas that require floating platforms are home to two-thirds of America’s offshore wind energy potential” and that “the administration’s actions will capture this vast potential to power millions of homes and businesses, grow new manufacturing and maritime industries at home, and tackle the climate crisis.”

Later this year, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will hold the first lease auction for floating offshore wind, in areas off the California coast. Last month, California set a target of reaching 25 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2045, The Verge reported.

Oregon also is seeking to harness the winds off its coast. The Oregon Department of Energy released a report highlighting the benefits and challenges of deploying offshore wind.

Offshore wind could benefit the state by “helping Oregon achieve its clean energy goals, strengthening grid reliability and resilience, and bolstering economic development in coastal communities, among others,” the agency said in a statement. 

The report also found many hurdles, including concerns about coastal communities and the environment, industries such as fishing and tourism and the readiness of technology, the grid and ports.

“Offshore wind is a critical part of our planning for the future,” Oregon Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, said on a press call, according to The Verge. “Some of the nation’s best potential for wind energy is along the southern coast of Oregon and the northern coast of California.”

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Alex Brown
Alex Brown

Based in Seattle, Alex Brown covers environmental issues for Stateline. Prior to joining Stateline, Brown wrote for The Chronicle in Lewis County, Washington state.