Then, in 2020, the state of Louisiana submitted a request that kicked off everything. Since then, Matthews has led numerous stakeholder engagement meetings where she developed an awareness of the most prominent worries people have about offshore wind.
“The first concern with wind power is typically birds – as in, ‘we’re going to harm birds,’” she said. “So, we have to address that because there are things companies can do, like gaining an understanding of migration paths, times and seasons, when you could power the wind farms down, or even paint one of the turbine blades a different color, which can make the turbines more visible to birds.”
The other big issue is jobs — specifically, what types of jobs will be available.
“Community members tend to think there won't be as many jobs as in oil and gas, because there can be 90-to-100 people on an oil platform, whereas turbines don't require as many onsite workers,” Matthews said. “Once you start engaging community members and informing them that someone still needs to build and maintain those turbines and it could be 80-to-100 turbines for one offshore wind farm, they start feeling a bit more comfortable.”
While she does see a need for streamlining the permitting and consultation processes in the U.S., where several federal agencies are involved, Matthews said there is a tremendous potential here for offshore wind.
She noted that Europe has seen much more success in the development of these projects, because many of the countries leading the European offshore market have a “one stop shop” solution for completing the permitting and consultations, and that a similar approach could be valuable to emulate in the U.S.
Matthews sees five critical areas as essential to the success of offshore wind in the U.S.