Offshore wind’s once-in-a-generation opportunity

Greg Alvarez

We’ve talked a lot in this space about offshore wind’s potential benefits, from job creation to supply chain opportunities and harnessing a new clean energy source next to many of the country’s largest population centers. Now, a first-of-its-kind report measures just how big offshore wind’s windfall could be.

New jobs by the thousands

The big takeaway from AWEA’s just-released Offshore Wind Economic Impact Assessment: Offshore wind could create 83,000 new jobs by 2030. That means opportunity up and down the East Coast as we construct America’s 26,000 megawatt (MW) offshore project pipeline. Building an offshore wind project is a true team effort, requiring electricians, engineers, pipefitters, vessel operators, wind technicians and dozens of other occupations. In fact, 74 different professions are needed to build an offshore wind farm according to the Workforce Development Institute.

And even though most offshore wind turbines will spin off the East Coast, new jobs will grow beyond the Mid-Atlantic and New England regions. For example, the country’s first offshore wind farm, Rhode Island’s Block Island Wind Farm, called on the Gulf’s ocean energy expertise to get the project built. Workers who had spent the majority of their careers working on offshore oil and gas infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico made the trek to New England to work on the project, and the robust U.S. offshore wind project pipeline means long-term, steady employment in a new arena for the Gulf’s legacy energy workers.

Big opportunities mean big investments

Constructing thousands of offshore wind turbines will attract a huge investment into our economy– $57 billion according to the new report. Beyond creating jobs and putting U.S. businesses to work, building our offshore project pipeline means investing in coastal and port communities, transmission infrastructure, new vessel fabrication, and domestic supply chain buildout, among other areas. The chance to build a new U.S. supply chain is particularly important—it could be a $70 billion opportunity according to the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind.

These investments aren’t theoretical—many of them have already started flowing. So far, companies have announced investments of $307 million in port-related infrastructure, $650 million in transmission infrastructure, and $342 million in U.S. manufacturing facilities and supply chain development. These are just the publicly known figures. Other announcements to establish offshore wind hubs and factories along the coast that have not yet listed a specific dollar amount, but they represent millions of additional dollars invested. Companies have also signed contracts to build four new U.S.-flagged crew transfer vessels to support offshore wind project development, which is a preview of the ship building activity to come as we grow our offshore wind pipeline.

Offshore wind’s windfall is already on the way, and communities across the country stand to benefit.