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The US Goes Big on Wind Power and Environmental Justice

Sustainability News
by Tim Wenger Apr 2, 2021

This is The Climate Win, the most positive sustainability news around the world every week.

Wind power took a major step forward in the United States this week. On March 29, the Biden administration released a plan to boost offshore wind energy development and boost overall development of wind power along the densely populated East Coast from Long Island to the Jersey Shore. The plan, detailed in a release from the White House, will develop 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, enough to power 10 million homes and keep 78 million metric tons of greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere.

“For generations, we’ve put off the transition to clean energy and now we’re facing a climate crisis,” said Secretary of Interior Deb Haaland in the release. “The climate crisis disproportionately impacts communities of color and low-income families. As our country faces the interlocking challenges of a global pandemic, economic downturn, racial injustice, and the climate crisis — we have to transition to a brighter future for everyone.”

The plan is built around three primary goals to address these issues:

  • Creating thousands of high-paying, unionized jobs
  • Investing in the country’s infrastructure, in this case by increasing our energy independence
  • Collecting data on the processes and sharing it, in an effort to track effectiveness and make future wind development projects more efficient

A Scottish offshore wind project provides a good example of how this project on our side of the Atlantic could be impactful. An offshore wind project there run by the Norwegian company Equinor has allowed that firm to cut costs by 40 percent, The Guardian reported, while taking advantage of persistent sea winds that have consistently made the floating turbines both profitable and effective. As a result, Equinor plans to add more turbines in the Atlantic waters, as do other companies, furthering the impact that offshore wind can have on energy production there.

It would not be out of line to project that a successful initiative here would attract massive interest from both private companies and utilities looking to create wind power at scale for Americans.

Read more about the proposed wind energy projects via The Washington Post.

How wind energy development ties into travel

These developments aren’t going to reduce emissions from commercial aviation or directly make travel more sustainable. But they will indirectly help with one of the United States’ favorite pastimes, the road trip. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 28.2 percent of total US emissions come from automobiles. As Americans transition to electric vehicles in the coming years, that rate will decline — but how rapidly depends partially on how those electric vehicles are charged.

Sure, a car itself might not be spewing emissions, but if the EV charger that filled it up is powered by fossil fuels, it’s impossible to call that an entirely clean commute. Renewable energy accounted for just 11 percent of the US power supply in 2019, according to the US Energy Information Administration. These wind power developments will add more clean energy into the power grids along the Northeast coast, some of which will be sucked up by EV chargers.

The proposal could also have a big impact on environmental justice, which plays into who gets to travel in the first place. By creating high-wage jobs and prioritizing diverse hiring, the projects to build and maintain these offshore wind farms can help the families of employees increase their financial stability, thus providing more access to luxuries such as more frequent travel. Further, by developing clean energy away from neighborhoods adjacent to factories and power plants, these projects will decrease dependence on the fossil fuel power plants that are polluting neighborhoods in the first place — improving the health of residents while simultaneously opening the door to further economic development in those areas.

“This commitment to a new, untapped industry will create pathways to the middle class for people from all backgrounds and communities,” National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy said in the White House release.

More climate wins

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker formally signed the state’s climate bill into law, the Boston Herald reported, committing the state to net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The bill also sets in action a course to more clean energy jobs and EV adoption throughout the state.

New Mexico this week finalized a rule to eliminate the practice of gas venting and flaring in oil fields. The rule will reduce emissions produced onsite and wells and drill sites.

Finally, if you’re like us and enjoy nerding out on cool clean energy projects, check out this incredible floating solar farm in Rotterdam, Netherlands. It’s Europe’s largest floating solar park, and Architectural Digest reported that it yields 20-30 percent more power than land-based farms because it rotates with the sun while being cooled by the water underneath the panels.

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