President Biden’s plan to reach net zero carbon dioxide emissions in the generating sector includes the installation of 30,000 megawatts of new offshore wind capacity by 2030. Building 30,000 megawatts of capacity will require “massive industrialization” of the oceans, anchoring thousands of offshore platforms along the coasts that could pose significant threats to navigation, marine mammals and fisheries. If those 30,000 megawatts of capacity get built, they will cost ratepayers billions of dollars more per year than if that same power were produced from natural-gas plants or advanced nuclear reactors.
According to the White House, meeting the target could mean jobs for more than 44,000 workers and for 33,000 others in related employment. But the White House is not telling the American public that most of these jobs are temporary construction jobs and that the salaries of wind and solar technicians are much less than the salaries of oil and gas workers that Biden wants to displace. Further, the projects under development along the east coast all involve European power companies including Britain’s BP, Norway’s Equinor, Spain’s Iberdrola and Denmark’s Ørsted.
Efforts to build wind farms from North Carolina’s Outer Banks to Cape Cod off of Massachusetts have been in development for nearly a decade, with 17 current projects in development off the Atlantic coast, consisting of over 1,500 turbines. Several are in planning stages for the waters off of New Jersey and New York. Only seven wind turbines are currently operating in U.S. waters, and six of those are off of Block Island, R.I. whose consumers were previously served by expensive floating diesel generators. That project, however, is undergoing costly renovations because the transmission cable to the mainland carrying electricity from the wind turbines was not placed deep enough, and is causing safety concerns for swimmers and fisheries.
Fishing groups from Maine to Florida have expressed fear that large offshore wind projects could render huge swaths of the ocean off-limits to their catch, their culture and their livelihoods. Off the coast of Maine, more than 80 lobster boats lined up between Monhegan Island and Boothbay Harbor to protest a seabed survey for a planned offshore wind turbine near Monhegan. Lobstermen fear that the ongoing survey project and the test turbine that would follow it will disrupt fisheries and undermine the lobster industry that serves the economy for coastal Maine. The turbine south of Monhegan would link to the mainland power grid in South Boothbay via a 23-mile underwater cable. The lobstermen indicate that the survey boats disrupted their operations by cutting lines and disturbing buoys.
Cost of Offshore Wind Turbine Electricity
The US Energy Information Administration reports that offshore wind is one of the most expensive forms of electricity generation, estimating that in 2026, producing one megawatt-hour of electricity from offshore wind will likely cost about $121–almost double the cost of generating that same amount of energy with an advanced nuclear reactor ($69), more than three times the projected cost of producing it with natural gas ($37), and even more than coal ($73). Large increases in electricity prices will be particularly harmful to low- and middle-income consumers and particularly painful in New York and New England, where consumers already pay some of America’s highest electricity prices.
If all Biden’s 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind are built and the turbines operate at a 50 percent capacity factor (i.e. they produce at full output half of the time), they will generate about 131.4 million megawatt-hours per year. At $121 per megawatt-hour, that energy will cost about $15.9 billion per year. That compares to $9.1 billion for advanced nuclear at $69 per megawatt-hour, and $4.9 billion for natural gas at $37 per megawatt-hour, when both generate 131.4 million megawatt-hours. The electricity from 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind could cost consumers roughly $6.8 billion more per year than if the power came from advanced nuclear reactors and about $11 billion more than if it were produced from natural gas combined-cycle generators. But at those prices, offshore wind will be great for the developers, mostly foreign-owned companies.
Offshore wind will also receive billions from federal subsidies that the offshore sector will be collecting from the federal government in the form of tax credits or from states like New York, which pledged $200 million in port infrastructure improvements to support the development of offshore wind projects.
Offshore wind is a bad deal for the marine environment, ratepayers, and taxpayers. Biden’s plan should be nixed before it makes American electricity consumers on the east coast energy poor as electricity prices will certainly rise. It also will not furnish well paid jobs for Americans as the developers are mainly European, the jobs are temporary construction jobs, and the pay is lower than oil, gas and coal jobs that will eventually be displaced by Biden’s objectives. Biden wants to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, but those reductions will be negated by China whose carbon dioxide emissions will increase as China continues its economic rise using inexpensive coal power as its chief energy source.