Biggest offshore wind farm in the US gets the go-ahead

The Biden admin approved a project off the New Jersey coast that will generate enough renewable power for up to half a million homes. It could be online by 2025.
By Akielly Hu

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President Biden points at a chart comparing the size of offshore wind turbines to the empire state building and Eiffel Tower
(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

This story was first published by Grist.

The Biden administration has approved what will be the nation’s largest offshore wind farm, a sprawling 98-turbine complex that is sure to boost a burgeoning energy sector widely seen as essential to reaching the nation’s climate goals.

The new Ocean Wind 1 project, developed by the Danish energy company Ørsted, will be built about 15 miles off the coast of New Jersey and generate 1,100 megawatts of electricity — enough to power up to 500,000 homes. It is the third proposal of its kind approved by the Biden administration, following Vineyard Wind off the coast of Massachusetts and South Fork Wind east of Long Island, New York.

Since Day One, the Biden-Harris administration has worked to jump-start the offshore wind industry across the country,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a press release announcing the decision. Today’s approval for the Ocean Wind 1 project is another milestone in our efforts to create good-paying union jobs while combating climate change and powering our nation.”

The project advanced despite significant controversy over offshore wind development in the last year. Some Republican lawmakers argue the industry will harm tourism, and they blame it for a recent spate of whale deaths. But officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration say there is no evidence linking the fatalities to offshore turbines. The federal agency instead points to other, more likely causes, such as climate change and collisions with ships.

Congressional Republicans and local nonprofits opposed to these projects have launched campaigns and lawsuits to halt their development — many of them backed by oil and gas companies. Fast Company traced funding for efforts to stop Vineyard Wind and other offshore wind projects to the Texas Public Policy Foundation and the Caesar Rodney Institute. Both receive money from the likes of ExxonMobil, Chevron and Koch Industries.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration calls offshore wind a key source of clean energy and jobs as the nation transitions off fossil fuels. President Biden has set a national goal of installing 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, enough to power 10 million homes. The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management hopes to review 16 projects by 2025.

Department of Energy officials say expanding the sector will take advantage of the stronger, more consistent winds that blow over seas, where the rapidly maturing technology produces more electricity per turbine than onshore farms. While the U.S. only has two offshore wind farms up and running, one near Rhode Island and the other off the coast of Virginia, the U.K., China, Germany and other nations heavily rely on them.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management estimates that during its development and three years of construction, Ocean Wind 1 will create more than 3,000 jobs. Along the Gulf Coast, the offshore wind industry has already become an economic lifeline” for workers displaced from the declining oil and gas sector. According to the Department of Energy, an offshore operation in the Gulf could create 4,500 jobs during construction and 150 permanent operations jobs.

Ocean Wind 1 is expected to become operational by late 2024 or early 2025

Akielly Hu is a freelance climate reporter and a former news and politics fellow at Grist.