Installation of the final turbine in the London Array -- the world's largest offshore wind power project to date. Photo: London Array Limited
Installation of the final turbine in the London Array — the world’s largest offshore wind power project to date. Photo by London Array Limited

The Massachusetts House of Representatives passed an energy bill on Wednesday that could finally unleash the nation’s offshore wind power potential. The bill contains a commitment to 1,200 megawatts of offshore wind power – a critical opportunity to replace the energy from the retiring Brayton Point and Pilgrim Nuclear Power Stations.

There’s a long road ahead for this bill and plenty of room for improvement, but first, let’s take a moment to acknowledge the significance of this major step forward.

For 25 years, our neighbors across the Atlantic have been advancing offshore wind technology and embracing the massive local clean energy opportunity it presents. Here in the U.S., however, our state leaders have not taken the right actions needed to bring our offshore wind resource online, leaving us without a single one of the more than 3,000 turbines spinning offshore worldwide. But, momentum is building.

America’s first project is already under construction in Rhode Island. And now, the MA legislature is finally moving to embrace offshore wind power with a long-term commitment to reduce pollution and stabilize electric rates with a local, job-creating energy source. This is a big deal.

In a statement released by the National Wildlife Federation, our MA affiliate the Environmental League of Massachusetts, and several of our partners in the Commonwealth, we underscored the significance of the House energy bill as a strong starting point:

Facing the overlapping needs of replacing retiring coal and nuclear power plants, diversifying our energy portfolio, spurring economic development, and cutting the pollution that leads to climate change, Massachusetts’ leaders have an opportunity to lead the nation in launching a local, job-creating energy source that could power our economy for decades to come.

The Work Ahead

Massachusetts has taken the national spotlight with this trailblazing step forward, so it’s critical that we get this right. While 1,200 megawatts is a bold starting point, it falls short of the scale needed to fully seize first-mover economic advantages. A recent study by the University of Delaware finds that a commitment to 2,000 megawatts of offshore wind for MA would drive costs down and deliver extremely cost-competitive electricity in just ten years. Plus larger scale means more jobs and greater environmental benefits.

As the bill moves toward Governor Baker’s desk, NWF and our partners in the Commonwealth call on our leaders in the State House to increase the offshore wind commitment to at least 2,000 megawatts. Still only a fraction of what is readily available far off the coast of Massachusetts, we need this in order to secure the lower costs and greater environmental benefits that such scale will deliver. Responsibly developed offshore wind power is critical to securing a truly clean energy future for the region, and now is the time for bold leadership to ensure that this booming international industry makes its U.S. debut here in the Commonwealth.

The United Kingdom’s Greater Gabbard wind farm. Photo by DECCgovuk, Flickr

Massachusetts is poised to finally demonstrate the opportunity of our largest untapped clean energy solution – one held at bay for far too long. Responsibly developed offshore wind power can and must be a pillar of our clean energy future. It is an essential piece of our pursuit to protect wildlife, wild places, and future generations from the threat of climate change.

With pride in my home state for leading the way, I also push us to meet the high standard we are so capable of. We have waited decades to harness our world-class offshore wind potential – let’s get a 2,000 megawatt commitment on the books this session and inspire states all along the coast to get in the game!

Sign a petition to Governor Baker calling for a bold commitment to offshore wind power for the Commonwealth!