Updated: Apr 8
The Biden administration’s new plan to develop wind energy resources off the Atlantic coast can result in hundreds of new wind turbines producing massive amounts of clean energy within the next few years, according to a top wind energy expert who appears on a new podcast with New Jersey attorney and former Gov. Jim Florio.
Listen to the podcast:
Kris Ohleth, Executive Director of the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind (SIOW) and a 15-year veteran in offshore wind energy, appears on the Tempo and the Times podcast Florio co-hosts with myself and Scott Ramminger, of Nashville, TN. SIOW is a leading policy group providing expertise, analysis, information sharing, and strategic partnership support for key offshore wind stakeholders. Ohleth previously was Senior Manager of Stakeholder Engagement at Ørsted, a major offshore wind energy company.
Offshore wind is an energy resource “whose time has come,” Florio says on the new podcast, which will stream Friday, April 9 on Spreaker.com and other major podcast channels. “Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come. The concept of offshore wind, clean energy, and climate change sensitivity is an idea whose time has come.”
With strong support from the Biden Administration which has just launched a major initiative to develop wind energy off the Atlantic coast, Ohleth says major new wind farms that can produce massive amounts of electric power can be in place within the next four or five years and perhaps sooner.
They will dramatically reduce reliance on fossil fuel while providing thousands of new, good paying jobs, and boosting the economies of communities along the mid-Atlantic coast, she predicts.
According to the White House, the administration’s plan would generate 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by the end of the decade, enough to power more than 10 million homes and cut 78 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
“This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for port communities to have a new start,” Ohleth says.
While more than a dozen leases for wind farms off the mid-Atlantic coast are already in place, Ohleth explains that federal and state permitting requirements are substantial and time-consuming, and that concerns from entities ranging from the commercial fishing industry, to tourism, the merchant marine industry, and even the U.S. Coast Guard must be resolved.
SIOW, which is funded by a number of foundations, is working to build stakeholder support, says Ohleth, adding that in addition to improving energy supply and boosting the local economies, offshore wind energy can play a major role in the battle against climate change, which directly impacts coastal communities with flooding and storm surges.
On the podcast, Florio points out that "public policy is shaping up" to facilitate the development of wind power, noting that the Biden administration is "much more inclined to be supportive, as the previous administration was fossil fuel-oriented."
"We need to help other users of the ocean to understand that offshore wind is a priority," says Ohleth. "The technology we know, procurements are underway, the financing is solid, but the stakeholders are the issue. How we work that into what's already happening in the ocean is the key."
Developlers, such as her previous employer, Ørsted, lease the areas for 25 to 30 years and Ohleth says there are between 14 and 17 lease areas already let. "So they are ready to build once they get permitted," Ohleth explains.
She points out that the closest current wind farm is now 15 miles from shore and that such facilities must be placed at least three miles offshore in federally controlled waters. "There are tug and tow lanes that need to be adhered to, some coastal communities don't want to see turbines right off shore," she says.
However, both Ohleth and Florio explain on the podcast that they each have visited offshore wind turbines and marveled at their quietness and efficiency, adding that major environmental organizations, including the Audubon Society and National Wildlife Federation are on board.
Despite former President Donald Trump's claim that "windmills kill birds" and cause cancer, statements that Florio calls "ludicrous," wind power has the potential of helping to significantly assist in the nation's battle against climate change, generate vast numbers of good jobs, and help protect the environment while generating reliable energy supplies.
The benefits of offshore wind energy are three-fold, Ohleth says. “There’s benefit to the energy system, benefit to the environment, and benefit to the economy. With that kind of ‘triple E’ alignment, there is no way to lose in pursuing offshore wind for the United States.”
As we approach Earth Day on April 22, it is good to know that aggressive, but realistic efforts are under way to harness the power of the wind so this bountiful resource can join solar energy and other renewable forms of power to help reduce our nation's reliance on fossil fuels and dramatically reduce, if not eliminate, the harmful emissions that they generate.