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A Voice for our Ocean

U.S. offshore wind energy faces headwinds

Deploying its full potential is critical for America’s transition from fossil fuels

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Offshore Wind Report Cover

A new report from Ocean Conservancy and Perkins Coie reviews the challenges and proposes a combination of policy changes and regulatory updates that can take U.S. offshore wind energy from potential to power.   

“Despite the tremendous potential for offshore wind energy, there are only two operational projects with a total energy output of only 42 megawatts, which means the U.S. has to scale up offshore wind energy outputs a staggering 700 times in the next eight years,” said Amy Trice, report author and director of Ocean Conservancy’s Ocean Planning program. “If done right, offshore wind energy can help mitigate the climate crisis by preventing 78 million metric tons of C02 emissions and inject $12 billion in annual capital investments along both coasts while creating thousands of good American jobs.”   

Some of the challenges recognized in “From Policy to Power: Federal Actions to Deliver on America’s Offshore Potential are under-resourced federal agencies, an uncertain operating environment, and a lack of coordination among federal agencies and with stakeholders.  

“Our analysis found that key federal agencies like Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) can enhance their collection of information, interagency coordination, and address the high demand for efficient environmental review and authorization decisions,” said Ted Boling, a partner with Perkins Coie who co-authored the report and previously served at the President’s Council on Environmental Quality and as the country’s top National Environmental Policy Act attorney. “None of these obstacles are insurmountable and our recommendations lean heavily on adaptation of existing legal and regulatory tools for this emerging clean energy industry.”    

The report, that was also co-authored by Perkins Coie partners Don Baur and Laura Morton, calls for an integrated management approach that includes an efficient and effective planning and permitting process, evidence-based decisions, an adaptive monitoring framework as well as robust stakeholder engagement.   

Recommendations in the report are categorized under wind energy areas and project siting, transmission planning, leasing, and operations. They include:    

  • codify a novel approach to planning and permitting, including revising BOEM processes that are now well over a decade old,  
  • leverage Regional Ocean Partnerships and associated data portals,   
  • formalize Memoranda of Understandings with jurisdictional states, Tribes, and local agencies for regional coordination,  
  • use the White House Ocean Policy Committee as a forum to address a variety of interagency challenges that affect offshore wind permitting, balancing conservation and economic benefits, and   
  • strengthen compliance measures with statutes such as the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).   

The report is the culmination of rigorous policy and legal analyses supported by interviews with policy experts, federal agency staff and a broad swathe of ocean users. 

Ocean Conservancy and Perkins Coie’s From Policy to Power report offers comprehensive recommendations for improving the U.S. offshore wind planning and permitting system,” said Heather Zichal CEO of the American Clean Power Association (ACP).ACP stands ready to work with Ocean Conservancy, other ENGOs, and the Biden Administration to improve the permitting process and unlock the economic and environmental benefits the industry holds.” 


Link to the full report is here.  

Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create science-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.   

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