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NOAA forms first partnership with offshore wind developer

Part of Biden administration plan to increase sustainable energy output, create jobs

The Sea-Jay comes into dock at Llandudno, U.K., with the Ørsted Burbo Bank windfarm in the background. (Photo: Flickr/Matt Buck CC BY-SA 2.0)

When it comes to finding energy solutions, some people believe the answer is blowing in the wind.

This is certainly the case at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The agency, which falls under the U.S. Department of Commerce, has signed an agreement that it hopes will solve some of the country’s energy problems.

After a year of discussions and ironing out details, NOAA officials announced March 29 a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Ørsted Wind Power North America LLC, an offshore wind development company. The agreement allows for the sharing of physical and biological data in Ørsted-leased waters that are subject to U.S. jurisdiction. The agreement will provide the U.S. with weather, water and climate data, as well as forecasts and warnings so that NOAA can best protect life and property and enhance the U.S. economy.

The MOA is the first of its kind between the U.S. government and an offshore wind developer, and it paves the way for similar data-sharing agreements with other companies.

Related: New NOAA ship to explore, study the oceans

“This partnership with industry will deliver data Americans use for business, science and education, while at the same time mitigating effects of climate change,” Ben Friedman, NOAA’s acting administrator, said in the announcement. 

“Our ocean, coastal and Great Lakes resources are critical to national security … and NOAA is pleased to work with willing partners to understand and maximize the potential of these national assets.”

Jennie Lyons, with NOAA Public Affairs, told FreightWaves that NOAA is “very excited” about filling in ocean data gaps by partnering with Ørsted. Many regions of the oceans haven’t been mapped, and Lyons said data gaps are due mainly to resource prioritization.

“We prioritize where we work based on user needs, for example safe navigation, oil/gas, science/research, sand/gravel for beach renourishment and coastal zone management,” Lyons explained.

Offshore wind energy is leading to a new focus on different areas of the ocean than in the past. Offshore wind energy companies and the government now have a need for data in these regions.

“Private sector partnerships not only maximize federal resources, but private sector contributions of the data they collect to understand their lease areas and transmission cable routes back to land are very important,” Lyons added. “This new requirement coincides with U.S. interest in mapping our waters fully for renewable energy … as part of the global effort to map the world’s oceans.”

As part of the agreement, NOAA will also share its publicly available data with Ørsted.

Ørsted wind farm off the shore of Walney, United Kingdom (Photo: Ørsted)

It’s no wonder NOAA likes Ørsted. The multinational power company, based in Denmark, has become a green giant.

As of 2020, the company was the world’s largest developer of offshore wind power, accounting for 29% of global installed capacity, according to a report from E&E News. Ørsted produces 88% of its energy from renewable sources, and the company has a goal of net-zero generation by 2025, along with no carbon emissions by 2040. It’s also the largest energy company in Denmark.

Ørsted supplies green power to more than 15 million people, with plans to increase that to 30 million by 2025. Ørsted’s market-leading position has enabled it to reduce the costs of renewable energy so that new markets and investors can see the huge potential of offshore wind as a more profitable, efficient and sustainable alternative to fossil fuels.

“Ørsted believes in making a concerted effort to work with all stakeholders to grow key learnings and work from a complete dataset to better protect our planet,” David Hardy, CEO of Ørsted Offshore North America, said in last month’s announcement. 

“Climate change is a reality, and we are proud to work with NOAA to provide crucial information and to demonstrate how our industry can be stewards of our oceans while providing American individuals and businesses with clean, renewable energy.”

Gabriel Martinez, communications manager with Ørsted, told FreightWaves that the company has five wind farms under development off the Northeast coast. They will eventually supply power to Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Maryland. As part of Ørsted’s agreement with the U.S., NOAA will use data from these farms.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, will auction off lease areas in the offshore region known as the New York Bight. However, Martinez could not comment on whether Ørsted has plans to bid on these leases.

Related: On the level: How NOAA water data updates help maritime shippers

The hope is that this partnership, along with other joint renewable energy projects announced by the Department of Commerce, will advance the Biden administration’s clean energy goals. The administration wants to harness the economic potential of offshore wind power to “combat the climate crisis and create more clean energy jobs,” according to a Department of Commerce press release on March 29.

“We look forward to working across the public and private sectors to invest in clean energy solutions, like offshore wind, that will contribute to our whole-of-government approach to combat the climate emergency and create high-paying, high-skilled American jobs,” Commerce Secretary Gina M. Raimondo said.

Potentially, these projects could create more than 44,000 jobs in offshore wind by 2030 and nearly 33,000 additional jobs in communities supported by offshore wind activity.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.