The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) announced the hire of Laura Smith Morton this week to lead policy and regulatory efforts for the U.S. wind industry’s rapidly emerging offshore sector. In her new role as Senior Director, Policy and Regulatory Affairs, Offshore Wind, Morton takes the helm of AWEA’s offshore wind program during a crucial growth period — as the nascent U.S. industry prepares to build its first large-scale projects off the Eastern seaboard. July 8th was Morton’s first day.
“It’s immensely gratifying to be back working on offshore wind issues. As this new American energy industry scales up, we must strike the right balance with policies that encourage development, job creation, and the revitalization of coastal infrastructure while also engaging with other ocean users to ensure all can prosper,” said Morton. “I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work so this industry can put more steel in the water.”
Morton has more than 10 years of experience in offshore wind policy and regulatory issues, as an attorney and through senior roles at the Department of Energy (DOE), Council on Environmental Quality, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She contributed to the original National Offshore Wind Strategy published by the DOE and Department of the Interior, which charted a course to build the U.S. offshore wind industry, and led multiple interagency teams charged with creating efficiencies in the permitting process for clean energy projects.
Most recently, Morton served as a consultant to companies and non-profit organizations, including the National Audubon Society and the American Sustainable Business Council, on renewable energy, environment, and water resources issues.
“We’re thrilled to have Laura on board as we help shape the industry’s next chapter,” said Tom Vinson, VP of Policy and Regulatory Affairs, AWEA. “Her proven experience securing progress through federal bureaucracies and strategic expertise overcoming federal and state permitting challenges will bolster our efforts to realize a thriving U.S. offshore wind sector and a strong domestic supply chain.”
Morton will lead AWEA efforts in close coordination with the Association’s member companies to resolve permitting and regulatory challenges impacting offshore wind projects in development and facilities in operation. Key issues in Morton’s portfolio include offshore wind leasing and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management regulatory process, multiple-use compatibility with other ocean users, environmental impacts, and others.
Currently, the 30-MW Block Island Wind Farm stands alone as the only operating U.S. offshore wind farm, but that’s about to change. The second U.S. offshore wind project just began construction in federal waters near Virginia and project developers anticipate a total of six projects with a combined capacity of 2,010 MW to be operational by 2023.
Harnessing U.S. offshore wind resources at scale will deliver vast amounts of reliable energy to America’s biggest population centers, create tens of thousands of well-paying American jobs, revitalize ports and coastal communities, and improve national security. There’s also a huge opportunity for U.S. supply chain businesses, including those with experience in offshore oil and gas, to construct and service offshore wind farms.
According to the University of Delaware’s Special Initiative on Offshore Wind, building 18.6 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030 would create a nearly $70 billion opportunity for businesses in the industry supply chain.
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