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U.S. approves major offshore wind farm, launching industry to fight climate change

CommoditiesMay 11, 2021 07:21PM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden gestures as he delivers remarks on the April jobs report from the East Room of the White House in Washington, U.S., May 7, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Nichola Groom

(Reuters) -The Biden administration on Tuesday said it has approved the nation's first major offshore wind farm, billing it as the launch of a new domestic energy industry that will help eliminate emissions from the power sector.

The announcement fits neatly with U.S. President Joe Biden's broader agenda to combat global climate change by decarbonizing the nation's economy. The move, however, was quickly condemned by the fishing industry which said its concerns about the project's impact fish stocks and vessel traffic had been "met with silence" by government officials.

Approval of the Vineyard Wind project, which will be located 14 miles (23 km) off the coast of Massachusetts, is a significant milestone in the more than decade-long effort to permit a commercial-scale offshore wind project in U.S. waters.

With just two small offshore wind facilities, the U.S. has lagged European nations in developing the technology.

Vineyard Wind and other U.S. projects that were ultimately shelved faced concerns about damage to fishing, tourism, birds, historic sites and property values from putting dozens of spinning steel turbines near the scenic coastline.

Former President Donald Trump, who downplayed global warming and sought to maximize fossil fuels, had canceled Vineyard Wind's permitting process late last year, but Biden restarted the review within a month of taking office.

"It's been a long road," Vineyard Wind Chief Executive Lars Pedersen told reporters on a conference call.

"We're really looking forward to now moving into the phase where we can actually start building the first large-scale offshore wind farm in the U.S."

The Vineyard Wind project is intended to create enough electricity to power 400,000 homes in New England, the administration said in a statement. Initial construction could begin as soon as this year, and the project will begin delivering electricity to the grid in the second half of 2023, its developer said.

The project is meant to create 3,600 jobs, delivering on Biden's campaign promise that fighting climate change by expanding clean energy sources will boost employment, rather than reduce it.

"I've always believed that fighting climate change is not only good for the environment but good for the economy," Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said on a call with reporters.

The approval is a win for Vineyard Wind's joint project owners Avangrid (NYSE:AGR) Inc and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners. The project began its federal permitting process more than three years ago and endured a string of delays in part due to concerns that the wind turbines would interfere with commercial fishing.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management made several key changes since issuing the project's final environmental review in March. They include prohibiting the installation of turbines in locations closest to the coast and allowing just 84 turbines rather than up to 100.

The authorization also requires the turbines to be sited no less than 1 nautical mile apart to ease navigation and establishes a federal program to study the project's effect on scientific fishery surveys, which were projected in the environmental review to be majorly impacted by offshore wind.

A fishing industry group, Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, said those measures were insufficient to guarantee the safety of all fishing vessels and continuation of surveys that are critical to the industry.

Asked about the fishing industry's concerns, BOEM Director Amanda Lefton said Vineyard Wind's approval represented an opportunity to study the impacts on fishing.

"We will have a robust monitoring program, where we will learn and understand the impacts here, so that we can apply that to future projects going down the line," Lefton said.

Last month, the Biden administration unveiled a goal to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030 by opening new areas to development, accelerating permits and boosting public financing for projects. The industry is expected to help achieve the administration's broader goal of decarbonizing the electricity sector by 2035.

Most of Vineyard Wind's components will be manufactured in Europe due to the lack of a U.S. supply chain for the domestic industry, the company said.

"The fact that there was uncertainty of whether the industry would happen was sort of holding back those investments," Vineyard Wind's Pedersen said. "We definitely think they are going to flow right now."

U.S. approves major offshore wind farm, launching industry to fight climate change
 

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Comments (15)
Eudon Hickey
Eudon Hickey May 11, 2021 8:51PM ET
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So this wind farm will have big blades chopping up every bird in the area?
Boyoung Schang
Boyoung Schang May 11, 2021 8:51PM ET
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That's so sad!
Darryl Allen
Darryl Allen May 11, 2021 7:30PM ET
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When it's bad they say "U.S. approves" instead of Biden to avoid association
Kenneth nelson
grasshopper May 11, 2021 7:23PM ET
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Blow it Sniffer
Scot House
Scot House May 11, 2021 5:48PM ET
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The blind keading the blind
Investing Man
Investing Man May 11, 2021 5:46PM ET
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As a acientific world we should be using every method of power generation abailable.
Boyoung Schang
Boyoung Schang May 11, 2021 5:46PM ET
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Do you spell wrong on purpose to make it funny?
Edward Sims
Edward Sims May 11, 2021 2:34PM ET
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In their current form, windmills cost more energy to produce and maintain than they generate. The globalist entities pushing climate change do so for profit reasons, not to actually do anything about climate change. If they cared about climate change and no money, they would go after places in the third world that are literally dumping garbage into their water supplies.
Investing Man
Investing Man May 11, 2021 2:34PM ET
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Are you a child? They cost a lot to make once, but generate power for decades lmao. Go back to school child
Scot House
Scot House May 11, 2021 2:34PM ET
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Investing Man check the upkeep dummy. That costs money.
Boyoung Schang
Boyoung Schang May 11, 2021 2:34PM ET
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Investing Man  What's school child? Are you missing a comma here or are you trying to be funny?
Randy Lahey
Randy Lahey May 11, 2021 2:34PM ET
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Absolutely Edward. These 'people' can no more be trusted than emails from Nigerian princes.
Edward Sims
Edward Sims May 11, 2021 2:32PM ET
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Is that where all the hot air coming out of democrats heads gathers?
Mark Manley
Mark Manley May 11, 2021 1:20PM ET
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Oh, so this administration will call micro cudgel to the climate a crisis and approve a hideous wind farm, but what's happening in our southern border is a mere "challenge" that requires no response from this administration whatsoever? Alzheimer Joe and his group of self-important ne'er-do-wells are the real "crisis", home prices, gas, and consumer product prices are skyrocketing and the fed says we "might" see inflation? It's definitely amateur hour in D.C.
Alan Rice
Alan Rice May 11, 2021 1:09PM ET
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BEST place for a Windfarm: NOT where I can see it. Tic-toc.
Notvery Goodathis
Peteymcletey May 11, 2021 10:12AM ET
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"The Trump administration had canceled the Vineyard Wind permitting process late last year, but Biden has made clean energy a key component of his climate agenda and had promised to quicken the approval process." purposefully misleading. Zero context of why they canned it. do a better job Reuters.
Raksaksa Tonne
Raksaksa Tonne May 11, 2021 10:12AM ET
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and you have to help the mislead by not stating why, or perhaps you're just trolling
mat connors
mat connors May 11, 2021 10:04AM ET
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How about cleaning up the ocean before making more waste in it???? Green party is a joke.
danny Levine
danny Levine May 11, 2021 9:56AM ET
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waste of money
Connecticut Yankee
A_Jaundiced_Eye May 11, 2021 9:55AM ET
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Good job Reuters - they show a picture of the guy who's going to supply the wind to power the turbines.
Randy Lahey
Randy Lahey May 11, 2021 9:55AM ET
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If only this administration was so useful and benevolent.
Kaveh Sun
Kaveh Sun May 11, 2021 9:52AM ET
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The green new deal gang runs the show
Christian Gustafson
Christian Gustafson May 11, 2021 9:51AM ET
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Biden is not POTUS. Biden is not legitimate.
 
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