Over the last two decades, the US has seen incredible growth in renewable energy: Roughly a 12,000% increase in the installed capacity of solar panels and 4,800% for onshore wind turbines. But offshore wind has always lagged behind, even as China and European countries forged ahead with booming offshore wind industries. As of 2020, the US was home to just 0.1% of global offshore wind, split between two tiny farms off the coasts of Virginia and Rhode Island, according to data from the Global Wind Energy Council, a trade group.
That is poised to change in the next few years, now that the Biden administration has signed off on the country’s first major offshore wind farm, to be situated about 12 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. On May 11, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued a final approval for Vineyard Wind, an 800-megawatt, $2.8 billion joint venture between the US utility Avangrid, a subsidiary of Spanish renewable energy giant Iberdrola, and the Danish investment firm Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners that is scheduled to begin construction this year and send electrons to the New England grid by 2023.
The project still leaves the US far behind its peers, and well off from president Joe Biden’s goal, announced in March, to see 30 gigawatts of offshore wind installed by 2030. But it puts the US on the offshore wind map for the first time, and should open the door for what the White House has said could become a $12 billion domestic industry around the manufacture and installation of offshore wind turbines, which until now have been entirely imported from Europe (the Vineyard Wind turbines will be produced by GE, also in Europe).