Along the coast of Rhode Island, a 10-story steel tube is being hauled on the first trip to the construction site. A ship hauls a monopile, weighing more than 700 tons, 15 miles offshore. The massive metal structure is hammered into the seabed with the assistance of a jack plate barge. The ship then returns to shore, where cranes will begin to reload the ship with the remainder of the monopile, along with blades approaching 200 feet long, and more equipment to transmit power.
After the completion of the colossal windmill, the most burdensome process is yet to come. Transmission lines are then installed using specialized vessels that plough and bury the cables along the seafloor. This task of building infrastructure that can efficiently transmit power miles offshore back to land is daunting. This multi-billion-dollar project is happening in the New England market today, and there is a push to do the same off the coast of Texas.
In America, societal, economical, and cultural benefits are generally considered in every decision. This was not the case on March 29th when the Biden administration reaffirmed its offshore wind initiatives with billions in funding through federal loans aiming to deliver on President Biden’s promise to build 30 gigawatts of offshore wind. As soon as this month, Texas will join the many states with offshore leases up for auction. Pursuing offshore wind contradicts the consideration of the best interests of individuals.
The expansion of offshore wind farms pours funds into the construction of an energy source that is unable to compete against the efficiency and energy density of fossil fuels. Government favors for wind and solar have real-world costs—to both taxpayers and ratepayers. In 2021, Texans spent about $4.1 billion on transmission fees, twice as much as in 2013. Most of the additional spending is facilitating new wind and solar generation. When compared to nuclear and fossil fuels, transmission costs for renewables come in about two to three times higher per unit of generating capacity. Despite the bad math, renewable energy mandates are still being pushed across the country.
Texas became the No. 1 oil and gas-producing state in the nation due to decades of entrepreneurship, improved infrastructure, and technological evolution, allowing the industry to operate with great efficiency. On the other hand, the offshore wind industry is reliant on government incentives to compete in the same market as fossil fuels and nuclear energy. Subsidizing an industry into existence when the market does not exist contradicts the fundamental idea of sustainability, which is encouraged so often.
Texas is also a much more challenging market for offshore wind energy than the New England markets. Wholesale electricity prices in the northeast are far higher than what they are in Texas, owing in part to their refusal to expand their natural gas infrastructure. The renewable energy mandates in those states, combined with their poor onshore wind and solar resources, dictate that utilities find a way to ink long-term deals with offshore wind.
This is not the case for Texas; offshore wind must compete with onshore wind, solar, and natural gas that are half the cost. Outside of Houston, there is not an easy market to access for offshore wind, which means lots of expensive transmission lines.
America’s energy independence is dependent on Texas, and investing in offshore wind is a hindrance on our expanding energy grid. There is no merit in the federal government forcing an industry into existence that cannot compete on its own. It is the natural ebbs and flows of markets and entrepreneurs that continue to provide Texas with the most diverse and advanced energy portfolio in the world.