Theses Master's

Making Wind Work for Everyone: Driving the Equitable Distribution of Benefits from Offshore Wind Port Projects

Mathews, Sharon Sabu

As a part of its goal to switch entirely to clean electricity by 2035, the United States has set a target of producing 30 gigawatts (GW) of energy from offshore wind by 2030 (Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, 2024). In pursuit of this goal and their own decarbonization goals, states have also been setting targets for offshore wind energy production, with New York planning to generate 9,000 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind energy by 2035 and New Jersey targeting the development of 11,000 MW by 2040. Along with cities like NYC and federal agencies like the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), states have kick-started offshore wind projects through state-led solicitation processes and investments in infrastructure, supply chain, and workforce development. Ports play an important role in this growth, as offshore wind turbines are assembled using components that are transported to and from ports using water-based transportation, and because ports host several other critical functions such as marshaling, assembly, manufacturing, and operations & maintenance which are vital to the short and long-term needs of offshore wind projects. The port facilities that we currently have are far from ready to host offshore wind production activities, requiring major physical upgrades and the creation of new facilities. The development of offshore wind ports present an exciting economic development opportunity to states and local communities, as this revitalization will create thousands of jobs and catalyze economic growth in regions near these ports (Stefek et al., 2022).†

At the same time, the transition to clean energy like offshore wind and resulting investments in infrastructure and a supporting workforce creates the opportunity to distribute the benefits of this transition to historically underserved communities and demographic groups which have been underrepresented in the energy sector and the green economy. Green jobs are especially ripe with opportunities for supporting equity and economic mobility for disadvantaged communities like low-income communities, those who have historically borne the brunt of pollution, those at the frontlines of environmental burdens and climate disasters, and those historically excluded from economic opportunities† (Cornell ILR School, 2022). The federal government and state-level public agencies are cognizant of this historic inequity and are striving to achieve equitable development outcomes through investments in clean energy infrastructure like offshore wind ports. They work towards achieving these goals in a strategic manner through support for a diversified workforce, education and training, and targeted support for minorities and disadvantaged populations.†

This project studies the role that ports play in the offshore wind ecosystem in the states of New York and New Jersey, and the different kinds of ports required to meet the needs of the offshore wind industry. Further, it looks at the benefits that offshore wind port projects bring to local communities and how equitable these benefits are. Three categories of benefits are studied in detail: employment benefits through job opportunities; entrepreneurship benefits through contracting opportunities and support for new and emerging businesses; and community benefits delivered through community benefit agreements, host community agreements, and other commitments made by project stakeholders to communities. The projectís background research was carried out through a thorough literature review, the key points of which are encapsulated in this report. These insights are contextualized through interviews with offshore wind stakeholders from public agencies, offshore wind developers, and community-based organizations. The outcomes of this research are two-fold:

1. A primer on ports and the critical roles that they play in the offshore wind ecosystem in New York and New Jersey. This brief section will help demystify the relationships between ports and the offshore wind industry at large for public agencies, developers, and waterfront communities. Further, it can be used by regional advocacy organizations like the client to advocate for greater public investment in a coordinated regional network of offshore wind ports to advance this new clean energy sector and bring benefits to diverse stakeholders in local communities.

2. An analysis of the benefits created by offshore wind port projects and offshore wind projects, and how equitable the distribution of these benefits are. This section has a specific focus on the challenges preventing traditionally disadvantaged groups, such as low-income communities and communities of color, from accessing these benefits, and provides recommendations for measures to mitigate these challenges and increase opportunities for disadvantaged communities. To further understand these challenges as they relate to a live port project, the case of the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, an upcoming offshore wind terminal in Brooklyn, New York, is explored in detail through observations recorded through community meetings and interviews with project stakeholders.


This item is currently under embargo. It will be available starting 2025-06-01.

More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Sarmiento, Hugo
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
June 12, 2024