Offshore wind plan boosts clean energy
The offshore wind farms that will be developed under a new Biden administration plan are key to tackling climate change, according to an expert from Tufts. Federal investment in renewable energy could also accelerate efforts to create an improved electricity grid across the country, he said, following a funding announcement last week that the US Department of Energy will invest $ 13.5 million to provide environmental and wildlife data to support offshore wind development. The move helps advance a joint interagency goal to develop 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030 – enough electricity to power more than 10 million homes.
“We need to do something now that reduces carbon emissions or threatens to cause catastrophic changes to our planet,” says Eric Hines, professor of practice and Kentaro Tsutsumi faculty member at the School of Engineering. In addition to getting more renewable energy from wind power, “we need to build electricity highways across the country, much like our federal highway system, so that we can share electricity between. the regions “.
The funding announcement builds on the Biden administration’s plans to accelerate development of wind farms off the east and west coasts and in the Gulf of Mexico. In March, Energy Secretary Granholm announced offshore wind targets that dramatically increase investments in offshore wind energy and are expected to reduce carbon emissions by 78 million metric tonnes.
The plan is part of a larger vision for wind power as a clean energy source and reinforces the Biden administration’s intention to make the country carbon neutral by 2050. In February, the states United have joined the Paris Agreement and are committed to achieving its goal of keeping the rise in average global temperature to well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This goal aims to reduce the potentially cataclysmic impacts of climate change.
Hines was the spearhead and now runs Tufts University graduate program in Offshore Wind Energy Engineering, encompassing a post-baccalaureate program and a master’s and doctoral degree. degrees. A structural engineer, he has worked to bring innovations to market in the growing American offshore wind industry.
In 2012, he received a Designer Special Achievement Award from the American Institute of Steel Construction for his innovative work at the Wind Technology Testing Center in Charlestown, Mass., The largest wind turbine blade testing facility in America. North. From 2011 to 2016, he also advised the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center on the planning, design, permitting, construction and operation of the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, the first commercial-scale offshore wind logistics port in North America.
Hines spoke with Tufts now on the upcoming changes in offshore wind.
Tufts now: It is in Europe that offshore wind capacity has increased most significantly. Is the Biden administration’s recent move helping the United States catch up with Europe?
Eric Hines: Yes. It is the cornerstone of our efforts to fight climate change. Although as a context, it builds on a considerable dynamic. East Coast offshore wind industry engagements were led by nine states: Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and North Carolina. Their commitments over the past five years have increased from about 400 megawatts to 40,000 megawatts, a 100-fold increase.
To me, this is America at its best. The ideas come from the states, then they are canonized at the federal level.
The Biden plan could develop up to seven offshore wind farms, starting with the sale of leases for projects off the coasts of Maine, New York and the Mid Atlantic, as well as the Carolinas, California, Oregon and the Gulf of Mexico. How do companies get the right to build such operations?
Since the 1940s, the United States has had what is called the EEZ, or Exclusive economic zone, and which stretches 200 miles from the coastline. The idea is that you can’t buy these waters, but in a way similar to how the oil and gas industry works, you can apply for a lease from the Home Office’s Office of Ocean Energy Management.
The country’s first large-scale offshore wind farm was approved earlier this year. The project, about 15 miles off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, is expected to generate enough electricity for about 400,000 homes from about 62 turbines. What are the potential challenges ahead for more of these farms?
Climb. The level to which we need to scale up offshore wind is on such a large scale that most people can hardly imagine what we are talking about. By scale I mean the number and size of the turbines. These turbines are now taller than the 62-story John Hancock Tower [in Boston]. By 2050, we’re talking about putting 2,000 to 3,000 turbines in federal waters from Maine to North Carolina to meet Biden’s target.
On this issue of scale, offshore wind has encountered a lot of public opposition. Do you anticipate more concerns about the size of wind farms?
Cape Wind did not advance because it was too close to shore, but now the turbines have moved further and further offshore. Just as the ocean has many uses and meanings, many groups view offshore wind energy with concern, including the fishing industry, environmentalists, and coastal cities.
I do not see that we have any choice but to work together in all areas of concern. The reality is that the magnitude of what we need to do to lead our civilization is difficult to grasp. The planet faces an urgent need for clean energy. We know that our cities and coastal communities are at risk of being inundated with water due to rising sea levels caused by climate change. We must do something now that reduces carbon emissions or risks catastrophic changes to our planet.
Biden has allocated $ 230 million to modernize the port and is offering $ 3 billion in government loans. Is this enough to accelerate a significant change?
It’s important, but it’s not a lot of money. Massachusetts has already invested $ 115 million and built the country’s first offshore wind port, the Marine Commerce Terminal in New Bedford. New Jersey is talking about investing $ 400 million in ports. Investment in ports must amount to billions.
What is most important to me about supporting the Biden administration is that it provides visibility and coordination. The federal government controls rental permits, so it controls how quickly new projects can get started. It also regulates the grid between states and regions, and heads the Ministry of Energy, which is so essential for future R&D on our country’s energy grid.
I am particularly interested to see how this helps to advance the issue of the network at the national level. We need to build electricity highways across the country, much like our federal highway system, so that we can share electricity across regions.
Is there an urgent need for offshore wind development for New England?
Here is why we need to be serious about offshore wind power. New England is retiring aging coal-fired power plants and oil plants. Brayton Point, for example, was closed in 2017. With 1,600 megawatts, it was New England’s largest coal-fired power station.
These sources are disconnected at the same time as the demand for electricity that we can produce and transmit is expected to increase and we are under pressure to significantly reduce carbon emissions. The energy transition involves three main ideas: First, electrify the energy sector; second, to produce this electricity with renewable resources; and third, to triple the capacity of our grid to accommodate this expansion and share weather-dependent renewable resources across the continent.
We are removing all of these plants. Do we want to replace them with more coal-fired power plants, or do we want to replace them with clean energy?
Could offshore wind replace the fossil fuels on which we currently depend?
I think offshore wind power alone could pull us out of petrochemicals on the east coast. I see it as integrated with other clean energy sources across the United States through a macro-grid.
So can offshore wind power become a more common and affordable source of energy?
We’re already getting there. For the east coast states, offshore wind has become over the past five years the primary source of renewable energy predicted for 2050. The east coast states all have climate plans, and the amount they depend on. offshore wind is important.
How is Tufts contributing to the future of offshore wind?
The Tufts program is built on partnerships with industry, through the Tufts Offshore Power Research and Education Collaborative [OSPRE]. This dialogue is essential to ensure that new curricula and the development of career paths keep pace with this growing industry.
In the future, the success of our program as a whole will increasingly depend on collaboration with other universities and organizations. For example, we are working with Iowa State and Clemson University to imagine the electricity grid of the future. We also work with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and support their work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through the development of a clean grid.
The big question we want to answer is: how can we train and educate a skilled workforce? The United States needs at least 1,000 engineers per year trained over the next 30 years to be able to grow this industry and meet the 2050 horizon. There is a huge opportunity. I think there will be literally thousands of professional jobs and tens of thousands of skilled labor jobs in this industry over the next 30 years.
This is where Tufts takes the initiative. We have the first program in the country which trains graduate students in offshore wind infrastructure, supply chain and transmission. Tufts professors are at the forefront of the industry; we designed North America’s first offshore wind construction port, the Marine Commerce Terminal in New Bedford, and, among other projects, partnered with the University of Rhode Island to study and monitor the structural design of the first wind turbines offshore in North America — the Block Island Wind Farm.
One of the most exciting things about it is the diversity of our students. When you talk about offshore wind, you are talking about engineering, politics, the environment, fisheries, maritime affairs. Tufts attracts people from all walks of life who want to have these broad conversations. It’s a very dynamic intellectual atmosphere which I think will contribute to the future of the industry.
Laura Ferguson can be contacted at [email protected]