The Economic Impact of Offshore Wind Energy

Offshore wind is expanding as an important part of the United States’ renewable energy portfolio. A projected two million acres of federal waters in the New York Bight, California, and North and South Carolina may be auctioned for commercial wind leases by 2021. Offshore wind has the potential to deliver clean energy to millions of households, support major job growth, and inject billions of dollars in capital investment into the US economy.

Offshore wind energy generation will be a key component for New York to reach the goals set by the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA). Under this Act, the state is required to expand offshore wind generation from the previous target of 2,400 megawatts (mW) by 2030 to 9,000 mW by 2035. The consulting firm Wood Mackenzie estimates that offshore wind leases in the New York Bight—an area covering waters between Long Island and the New Jersey coast—could help New York reach its climate goals by generating up to 11.5 gigawatts.

Beyond the positive climate impacts of offshore wind, the budding industry is expected to have significant short-term and long-term economic benefits. Short-term benefits will accrue from project development and construction, while project operation and management will contribute to long-term impacts. In the short term, the construction and development of offshore wind will create an average of 70,000 domestic jobs between 2025 and 2035, with New York and New Jersey benefitting from most employment opportunities. In the New York Bight alone offshore wind development could sustain 32,500 jobs per year in construction between 2025-2030 and 5,800 jobs per year in operations and management once all of the offshore wind facilities have been built. The 2025-2030 construction phase would generate $183 million per year in revenue for New York State and $235 million per year after 2030.

Offshore wind activities will also contribute to economic output in related industries, such as transportation and ports, construction, and general service industries. Over $100 billion is estimated to be invested into the construction industry, and an additional $42 billion will be invested in turbine manufacturing and supply chain. Overall, the expansion of offshore wind will increase the US renewable energy portfolio, generate tens of thousands of sustainable jobs, and attract billions in capital for the domestic economy.