Before Donald Trump became president, he did not have a high opinion of offshore wind power. He famously battled the construction of a wind farm that he thought would ruin views from his luxury golf course near Scotland’s Aberdeen Bay. And as president-elect, he met with the powerful right-wing British politician Nigel Farage, encouraging him to fight the development of wind farms in the U.K.
With the Trump administration now under way, though, things seem to have changed. As Climate Central points out, the Department of the Interior is putting big chunks of territory on America’s Eastern Seaboard up for lease, and making sure people know when new deals are signed. “This is a big win,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said in March after the Spanish firm Avangrid paid $9 million to lease 122,000 acres off North Carolina.
The shift in attitude comes as offshore wind power in the U.S., which had been talked about for years but always seemed just out of reach, finally got off the ground last year.
America's first operational offshore wind farm, which supplies power mostly to residents of Rhode Island’s tiny Block Island, isn’t very impressive compared with the big European installations that have been online for years and continue to grow apace. But it seems to have gotten things rolling. Since then, the firm that built the Block Island project, Deepwater Wind, got further approval to build a much larger farm off Long Island in New York. The Department of the Interior also recently announced plans to lease 400,000 acres of waters off New England after Statoil and the American arm of Germany’s PNE Wind came knocking.
In an administration notable for appointing a climate denier to head the EPA and an oil magnate to run the Department of State, and for repeatedly trumpeting its intent to restore a declining domestic coal industry, embracing the development of offshore wind energy may seem a bit strange. But two things stand out as possible explanations.
The first is the presence of Rick Perry as Trump’s secretary of energy. Despite his ties to the oil industry, as governor of Texas, Perry helped turn the Lone Star State into a wind energy powerhouse, and he might see the advantages of doing the same for the waters off the East Coast.
Second, and perhaps more important, wind energy represents a booming job market. As Climate Central notes, the sector accounts for 100,000 jobs, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics says it will continue to grow rapidly into the 2020s. As a new president who was elected in part on a platform of job growth, Trump would do well to get behind something like that—even if he doesn’t like the view.