Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Marine Affairs


Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Elizabeth Mendenhall


For the United States, offshore wind represents a significant opportunity to meet renewable energy goals, contribute to climate change mitigation, and pursue economic development. Yet despite having abundant wind resources, the United States lags behind most countries with active offshore wind industries in terms of total installed capacity. Drawing on environmental federalism theory, this thesis used desk research and key informant interviews with offshore wind policy experts (n = 22) to compare the effects of federalism on offshore wind development in the United States and Europe. Interview data were coded using the program Atlas.ti, and applied thematic analysis revealed five major themes. Federalism has mixed effects on offshore wind development in the United States; while it has primarily created opportunities for actors across government levels to oppose OSW, it has also provided subnational authorities opportunities to support OSW. In Europe, more centralized forms of federalism have facilitated consistent economic and political support for offshore wind and, thus, faster development. This thesis shows how decentralized governance at the federal level, a lack of leadership, and competition among U.S. states have impeded efficient and equitable development of offshore wind in the United States relative to Europe. Before concluding, this analysis predicts how the Presidency and the state system may influence U.S. offshore wind in the near term and suggests reforms for offshore wind policy in the United States. Overall, this thesis reflects the ways in which government structures are re-organizing around climate change (or not) and how reforms promoting renewable energy can engender tradeoffs in the realization of our political value.

Available for download on Saturday, May 17, 2025