Obama hones in on offshore wind off mid-Atlantic coast

3 Feb 2012

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Offshore wind turbines in action

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The Obama administration is shaping up to kick start offshore wind energy in the US as part of its clean-tech focus for the economy. Just yesterday, the Obama administration announced it was moving forward to lease four areas off the mid-Atlantic coast to offshore wind-farm developers.

US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said yesterday that federal environmental reviews had been completed for wind-energy areas off Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia.

He also indicated that the federal government had concluded that wind-energy projects off the mid-Atlantic coastline would cause no significant environmental damage.

The American Bird Conservancy has had concerns about bird deaths as a result of wind turbines.

Salazar said he hopes to issue long-term wind-energy leases later this year. He also alluded to reporters yesterday that wind-farm developers should not have to wait "nine to 10 years to get a lease".

In the past five years, wind power has been growing exponentially in the US – up 33pc each year in each of the past five years. However, all of that wind-farm growth has been onshore.

While offshore projects have been proposed, none are in construction yet. This is in stark contrast to Europe, which currently has 53 offshore wind projects. According to the European Wind Energy Association’s latest offshore statistics, 1,371 turbines are installed and grid connected, totalling 3,813 MW in 53 wind farms in 10 European countries. This is up from 1,136 turbines, totalling 2,946 MW in 45 wind farms in nine European countries at the end of 2010.

Cape Wind is aiming to be the first offshore wind farm in the US. If the project goes ahead, it will be based on Nantucket Sound in Cape Cod, which is in Massachusetts. Salazar approved the project in 2010.

Once offshore wind developers secure leases this year, the next step will be overcoming the financial hurdle to hurl the projects into the construction phase.

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Carmel was a long-time reporter with Siliconrepublic.com

editorial@siliconrepublic.com