Department of Energy Pushes to Expand Clean Energy Projects

Windmills Offshore

A recent ENR article reports that the US Department of Energy has been paving the way for clean energy projects in the NYC & NJ area. Nearly 500,000 acres of federal ocean tracts are set to be auctioned in late Feb for offshore wind projects. This marks the largest wind lease auction done at one time, and the current administration’s first offshore wind lease.

The recent initiatives also include changes to lighten permitting controls for renewables projects on public lands, as well as provisions for upgrades to the nation’s aging electrical grid.

Offshore Wind Projects in the Northeast

These are all part of the government’s goal of reaching 30GW of clean energy by 2030, ultimately resulting in zero carbon emissions from electricity by 2025. Projections for this current initiative are that it could result in 5.6 to 7 GW of offshore wind energy capacity.

Project labor agreements have been put in place to ensure positive interactions with ocean users and also that underserved communities benefit from the clean energy initiatives. Ocean users are potentially impacted by large windmills standing in the way of their favorite boating routes. Disadvantaged communities have historically been impacted by industrial and non-clean energy pollutants. See our recent feature on EPA commentary on Environmental Justice and Justice40.

New York Bight Lease Areas Clean Energy Projects

Part of the agreements include incentives to source major project components nationally. This will ensure jobs and business stay stateside.

The labor development programs are far reaching and could make a years long impact. Apprenticeship training programs are being established that teach the skills needed to build the wind farms and could secure middle-class bound career paths.

Among the requirements of the auction are for developers to identify communities and marine users that could potentially be affected by the offshore wind projects development. They must make a demonstrable effort to engage with these communities in an effort to gain local support and to understand how they might be affected. As much as 72% of the original area to be leased was reduced as a result of environmental reviews and feedback.

The areas are divided into six parcels, which must be awarded by separate companies. This is to ensure price competition and a healthy competitive clean energy market.

Upgrading the Clean Energy Electrical Grid

The other major focus of the recent initiatives are rebuilding the nation’s electrical grid. The US Department of Energy released its plan for $20 Billion in federal financing options, much of which derives from the Infrastructure Bill signed into law last November. See our coverage here on What the 1.2 Trillion Dollar Infrastructure Deal Means to Construction Companies.

Major sections of the electrical grid upgrades include $2.5-billion Transmission Facilitation program, $3-billion expansion of the Smart Grid Investment Grant program, and $10 billion in grants for states, tribes and utilities for grid upgrades to reduce power disruptions. These funds are needed to fix dated electrical systems and keep up with future demands. More than 75% of the nation’s electrical grid is over 25 years old. Some estimates project the existing electrical infrastructure will need to grow by as much as 60% by 2030.

In conjunction with these broad sweeping funding programs, the Interior, Agriculture, Defense and Energy departments, along with the EPA have announced new collaboration and streamlined coordination on public lands utilization.

Solar Project Approvals in California

Along with harnessing offshore wind and upgrading the grid to bolster the US electrical infrastructure, just last month the administration announced plans to expand solar energy.

The AP News reports two large scale solar projects were approved in California, and initiatives were made to open up public lands in other western states for similar initiatives. This is part of the drive to move from fossil fuel dependence to clean energy in an effort to combat climate change. The other states being assessed for solar energy projects are Colorado, Nevada and New Mexico.

Solar Panels Desert

Both projects are in Riverside county, east of Los Angeles. Their combined electrical output is expected to power over 130,000 homes. 

A third major solar installation, also in Riverside, was approved in the weeks that followed. This one is slightly larger than the other two combined, as featured by The Hill.

Summary for Clean Energy Projects

The recent project initiatives for clean wind energy in the northeast, clean solar energy out west, and upgrading the electrical grid nationwide, are much needed to keep up with US energy demands, repair an aging grid, and countering climate change. The community involved discussions will ensure the projects both boast disadvantaged neighborhoods while providing steady jobs for years to come. These are largely made possible by the funding activated through the recent Infrastructure Bill – the largest in a generation.

While companies seek to secure their role in the projects, they can also think about upgrading their IT infrastructure by choosing Linarc. With so much activity going on in the job sites, it’s more important than ever to ensure your projects are organized and working at optimal efficiency. Contact us today to see the difference Linarc can make for your construction company.