Environmental Edge
December 22, 2021

Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act Provides Support for Offshore Wind Development

Environmental Edge: Climate Change & Regulatory Insights

It has been a big year for offshore wind. Early this year, President Biden included ambitious offshore wind development in his plan for addressing climate change. Since then, the Biden administration has taken clear steps to support the growth of offshore wind. The new Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which Biden signed on November 15, 2021, provides for infrastructure upgrades that the offshore wind industry will need to rely on to make the President’s vision possible. These upgrades are discussed below, but first, the following is a recap of the steps the Biden administration has taken this year to encourage the growth of offshore wind.

A Spotlight on Offshore Wind in 2021

In January, Biden issued Executive Order 14008, called “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.” EO 14008 set the stage for Biden’s plans for a revival of American infrastructure and the creation of a clean energy economy, and contained a clear directive to the Secretary of the Interior to review siting and permitting processes on offshore waters and to identify steps that can be taken to increase renewable energy production “with the goal of doubling offshore wind by 2030.”

A couple months later, the White house released a statement focused on driving offshore wind energy projects forward, finding “that a thriving offshore wind industry will drive new jobs and economic opportunity up and down the Atlantic Coast, in the Gulf of Mexico, and in Pacific waters.” The statement announced several tangible steps to advancing offshore wind development including:

  • A new priority “Wind Energy Area” in the New York Bight;
  • A target of employing tens of thousands of workers to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030;
  • Investing in American infrastructure to strengthen the domestic supply chain and deploy offshore wind energy;
  • Investing in port infrastructure to support offshore wind; and
  • Supporting offshore wind research and development and data-sharing.

In the spring, the Departments of the Interior and Commerce approved the construction and operation of the Vineyard Wind project—the first large-scale, offshore wind project in the United States, located off the shore of Massachusetts. The project involves the installation of 84 or fewer turbines as part of an 800-megawatt offshore wind energy facility and is expected to create 3,600 jobs and provide enough power for 400,000 homes and businesses.

In October, the Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland presented a “path forward” for future offshore wind leasing to meet the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of achieving 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) released the following graphic showing the seven offshore wind farms to be developed in the next four years:

How does the recently enacted Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act support offshore wind development?

The new infrastructure bill, or the “Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act,” which Biden signed into law on November 15, is a significant step in offshore wind investment by the Biden administration. Specifically, the act provides funds for climate change resilience and clean power initiatives, transmission infrastructure upgrades, and port upgrades. Infrastructure upgrades to ports and the electric grid are critical to enabling the growth of offshore wind as a feasible energy source. While the act is an important step for offshore wind development, the almost $2 trillion Build Back Better bill, which has stalled in the Senate, would deliver unprecedented investments in clean energy and contains provisions specifically targeted to offshore wind development, including making funds available for grants related to the development of offshore wind support infrastructure. If the Build Back Better bill is passed, 2022 should see a remarkable increase in offshore wind projects.

*Elise Henry contributed to this blog post.

© Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP 2021 All Rights Reserved. This blog post is intended to be a general summary of the law and does not constitute legal advice. You should consult with counsel to determine applicable legal requirements in a specific fact situation.

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