If millions of Americans trust the Coast Guard’s unique experience with coastal defense, search and rescue, and maritime law enforcement, then coastal communities, businesses and the Department of the Interior can trust the Coast Guard to assess accurately the benefits and risks of our country’s burgeoning offshore wind industry.
The Coast Guard has a hard job.
It is a multi-mission service unique among the U.S. military branches for not only having a maritime law enforcement mission in domestic and international waters but it also has a federal regulatory mission that makes it distinct from other branches with similar protective duties.
Despite this, the service has consistently been one of the United States’ most respected government branches for decades, and it’s heavily relied upon by coastal states, businesses and researchers.
Because of this, it’s no wonder that hundreds of businesses, trade groups and environmental stakeholders have been in near universal agreement with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Coast Guard’s alternative for the Vineyard Wind project — an 800 MW, 57-turbine development off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts that would provide enough capacity to power 800,000 homes.
The consensus design supported by the Coast Guard would array the wind turbines with a one nautical mile spacing. Data on the proposal found that the arrangement of turbines in this orientation would allow vessels to travel unobstructed and help to avoid navigational impacts, as well as protect coastal economies, limit underwater noise, avoid whale strikes, and other important considerations.
Despite this, there is a small contingent of legacy maritime interests that has taken issue with the Coast Guard’s navigation study, in a clear attempt to delay or even scuttle offshore wind energy development in a classic case of economic NIMBYism.
Similar to its onshore wind counterpart, offshore wind is being unfairly undercut by entrenched local interests more interested in holding onto power than building a stronger, more dynamic coastal marketplace that can create 83,000 new offshore wind jobs by 2030 and deliver $25 billion in annual economic input by the same year.
There are currently just two offshore wind facilities in the United States, both pilot projects, but there is enough offshore wind potential on the eastern seaboard to power 8 million homes.
The Vineyard Wind’s project is viewed by many in the clean energy and environmental community as the tip of the spear that will not only create more economic opportunity for coastal regions but also provide clean, competitive electricity for state and national climate goals.
The questions raised and answered during Vineyard’s approval process will have an enormous effect on how and if offshore wind energy development occurs along the United States’ coasts.
All inquiries on risks and effects should be taken seriously, but the process should not be abused by obstructionist interests eager to maintain influence in and around coastal communities.
The Coast Guard’s analysis of Vineyard Wind’s project, and the potential for offshore wind energy on the United States’ east coast, is sound, thorough and trustworthy, just like the service itself. The Coast Guard has also stated unequivocally that the service wouldn’t recommend anything beyond the one nautical mile spacing outlined in its report.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Interior Department must not let one vocal set of interests derail the offshore wind industry in the United States.
It’s too important to America’s long term efforts to build a better, brighter future for clean energy workers, coastal communities and the environment.