Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, officials from the ports of Seattle and Everett and other maritime leaders announced an initiative they hope will make Washington a key player in the growing offshore wind industry.
At a news conference on Tuesday at the Northwest Seaport Alliance, Joshua Berger, CEO of industry nonprofit Washington Maritime Blue, said he hopes Washington — with its active shipping ports and manufacturing workforce — can capture as many jobs and as much money as possible as the offshore wind industry grows.
Part of the enthusiasm comes from the Biden administration, which has set the goal of developing 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, enough to power 10 million homes. According to the Department of Energy, achieving that goal will take around 60,000 jobs, Port of Seattle Commissioner Ryan Calkins said.
Washington maritime officials are hoping to capture as much of that pie as possible and to manufacture everything the industry needs: the wind turbines, the platforms they’ll stand on, the cables that will anchor them to the ocean floor and the boats used to maintain them.
While offshore wind farms have been built on the East Coast in Rhode Island and Virginia, the West Coast is in earlier stages due to the region’s bathymetry.
Until recently, offshore wind turbines were built on top of steel structures that extended 100 to 200 feet into the ocean floor. That method is unfeasible to install on the Pacific Coast due to its steep drop offs from the continental shelf of more than 600 feet. Now, new technology has made it possible to install wind turbines taller than the Space Needle on floating platforms tethered to the ocean floor.
“In the East Coast, they are so antiquated,” joked Inslee at the news conference. “They have to anchor it to the floor of the ocean. That is such yesterday’s technology.”
On the West Coast, efforts have mostly been concentrated in Oregon and California, partially due to the higher demand for clean energy in California, Calkins said. Last year, the federal government identified sites near the Oregon coast and near California as potential leasing sites for offshore wind energy.
“We’re raising our hand and saying, we’re open for business to help California and its supply chain need for offshore wind,” Calkins said.
Berger said his organization is still looking into analyzing the existing supply chain and has not set any goals yet in terms of how many jobs or businesses it hopes to attract. The state could also play a part across the Pacific since Japan and China also have offshore wind goals, Calkins said.
Plans for floating offshore wind projects in Washington state are nascent at best, said state Sen. Joe Nguyen. A Seattle developer proposed building a floating offshore wind farm about 43 miles off the coast of Grays Harbor County on the Olympic Peninsula last year.
Should Washington develop its own offshore wind source, the process would have to be led by coastal communities, including tribes that have fishing rights off the coast, Calkins said.