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Published on October 26th, 2018 | by Tina Casey

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Trump Admin. Toots Offshore Wind Horn, Blows Hot Air At Coal

October 26th, 2018 by  


File this one under T for There they go again. President* Trump swept into office on the promise of bringing back coal jobs, but so far the big winners are coal’s competition: oil, natural gas, and even renewable energy. Yes, renewables. In the latest development, the US Bureau of Ocean Management is tooting the Trump administration’s horn for promoting the US offshore wind industry.

Holy coal-killing energy policy, Batman! Exactly what is going on here?

Actually, The President Still Hates Offshore Wind Power

To be clear, the Trump administration has been plowing full speed ahead on fossil fuels, with just a few highlights being withdrawal from the Paris Agreement on climate change, a proposal to begin oil and gas drilling along the Atlantic coast, opening up federal lands for more fossil fuel exploitation, rolling back air pollution standards for power plants, rolling back fuel efficiency for automobiles, and on and on and on.

In addition, BOEM comes under the umbrella of the Department of the Interior, which is helmed by notorious fossil fuel fan Ryan Zinke.

Add to that pile Trump’s personal experience with offshore wind energy. He fought for years against a new offshore wind farm and R&D center in Scotland, claiming it would spoil the view from his new golf course.

That’s a whole ‘nother can of worms (spoiler: he lost), but the point is that the oil, natural gas, and renewable energy sectors are booming but the Trump administration has yet to formulate a policy that would create more coal jobs in the US.

More Offshore Wind For The US

If you have some insider views on why it is so difficult to increase the number of coal jobs (not coal production, coal jobs) in the US, drop us a note in the comment thread.

Meanwhile, it looks like the number of offshore wind jobs is set to skyrocket.

Last week, BOEM announced a trio of new offshore wind initiatives. The agency could have churned out the news without giving a backhanded slap to coal stakeholders, but apparently the folks at BOEM wanted to hammer home a message. Here’s the headline:

Trump Administration Delivers Historic Progress on Offshore Wind

Do tell! The subheading delivers another smack:

Continues to fulfill promise of a secure energy future for Americans

Ouch!

So much for those promises to coal miners, their families and their communities.

Adding insult to injury, here’s the money quote from the press release (emphasis added):

Continuing with the Trump Administration’s all-of-the-above energy policy, the Secretary spoke at the American Wind Energy Association’s Offshore Wind Conference and announced…

If that “all-of-the-above energy policy” thing sounds familiar, it’s straight out of the playbook of former US President Barack Obama. Just saying.

Where were we? Oh, right. The new offshore wind news.

One leg of the news is Massachusetts, which was supposed to be the site of the nation’s very first offshore wind farm back at the turn of the 21st century. Dubbed Cape Wind, the dream died after years of legal struggles, with the main opposition funded in part by a member of the Koch family (I know, right?).

Now Massachusetts is roaring back. The new announcement totes up almost 390,000 acres for leases in the state’s coastal waters. If fully developed, the total capacity could reach about 4.1 gigawatts.

By way of comparison, the ill-fated Cape Wind project was just 21,671 acres.

Meanwhile, honors for the nation’s first “steel in the water” went to tiny Rhode Island, and the state’s lone, 5-turbine wind farm is about to get more company.

That’s where the second leg of the new announcement comes in. A number of projects are already in the works for Rhode Island, and the BOEM press release highlights the proposed 15-Turbine South Fork wind farm.

This one is of particular interest because it includes a transmission cable to the east end of Long Island, New York.

The end point of the cable would be East Hampton, which has relied partly on a diesel power plant to deliver electricity during peak demand periods.

In related news, the Hamptons (there’s a West one, too) recently received Long Island’s first utility scale energy storage facility. Currently the battery is being recharged with conventional power plants at night when rates are lower, so there could be potential for subbing in clean power if the new wind farm and cable combo wins approval.

CleanTechnica is reaching out to the local utility for more information about those plans, so stay tuned for that.

Offshore Wind For 6th Largest Economy

The US state of California is often described as the world’s 6th-largest economy, if it was a single nation.

So, it’s a big deal when California gets its first offshore wind leases. The third and final leg of the BOEM announcement gets the process rolling with a callout to identify qualified companies that are interested in any or all of three California offshore lease areas totaling 687,823 acres.

If you’re wondering why California has to start from scratch, that’s a good question.

Political considerations stalled offshore wind development along the East Coast during the Obama administration, but in California the challenges are more of a technical nature.

The main difference is that coastal Atlantic waters are relatively shallow, while the Pacific coast drops off steeply.

Conventional wind turbine platforms can’t be erected in deep waters, so California’s offshore industry will have to look at floating turbines and other next-generation technology.

That’s already in the works. In addition to learning from new floating turbines developed in other waters, the US Department of Energy has been funding deep water turbine R&D here in the US.

As for coal, the seats are shuffling over at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and a new appointee could beam a ray of hope to coal stakeholders.

Don’t bet the ranch on it!

Follow me on Twitter.

*Developing story.

Photo: Offshore turbines via Deepwater Wind.


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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



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