State leaders and the Biden administration have homed in on the industry because the power of offshore winds can produce a rare round-the-clock source of greenhouse-gas-free electricity – and one difficult for future administrations to undo once turbines are in the ground. The administration set a goal for 30 gigawatts of new power from offshore wind by 2030. That is about 3 percent of what the country needs to get to 80 percent clean electricity by that time, according to estimates from a team led by University of California at Berkeley researchers.
The industry paid more than $5 billion to the federal government for the right to build off the coast as the Biden administration made a large number of leases available last year. Some of the world’s largest energy companies, including BP, Shell, Equinor and Duke Energy, now plan to spend billions more constructing thousands of skyscraper-size turbines off America’s shores that will produce enough juice to power roughly 7 million homes, according to the American Clean Power Association, a renewable-energy trade group.
The nation’s first large-scale project began construction off the coast of Massachusetts a little more than a year ago, and surveying vessels are now charting the East Coast for the next wave of construction. That work is happening in the same area where a die-off of humpback whales began seven years ago and where scientists and federal officials are now working to prevent the North Atlantic right whale, one of the world’s most endangered marine mammals, from going extinct.
“We have an unprecedented amount of whales dying here at the same time there is this industrial activity taking place on a scale that has never before happened in these waters,” said Cindy Zipf, executive director of Clean Ocean Action, a local nonprofit. “Why is this not being investigated? Why are these companies getting a pass?”
Achieving the Biden administration’s target would require the installation of thousands of the machines, which will tower as high as three Statues of Liberty stacked on top of one another when their blades reach for the sky. The blades alone can be the length of a football field.
But it has been slow going. There are only seven working offshore wind turbines in the entire United States at the moment. In Europe, there are more than 5,000. China also has thousands.
I doubt that the turbines are really killing whales, but it shows how difficult it is to get anything big done in America nowadays.