Obama Administration Advances Responsible Offshore Wind Development

NWF Praises Investment in Market Barrier Removal, Environmental Review of High-Priority Areas

02-07-2011 // Tony Iallonardo
Offshore wind turbine

This morning the Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Department of Energy (DOE) unveiled a coordinated strategic plan to accelerate the development of offshore wind energy and unveiled four high-potential, low-impact areas in the Mid-Atlantic to speed up the construction of offshore wind power (map).

In addition, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced significant new funding opportunities totalling $50.5 million for needed research. The process is designed to give strong consideration to valuable coastal and marine species and natural resources.

"Offshore wind holds great potential to create jobs, cut pollution, and reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels," said Catherine Bowes, senior policy representative at National Wildlife Federation. "It is time for America to move forward boldly and responsibly with clean energy, and we applaud the administration showing leadership to accelerate offshore wind development."

According to DOI, the joint plan is the first-ever interagency plan on offshore wind energy and demonstrates a strong federal family commitment to expeditiously develop a sustainable, world-class offshore wind industry in a way that reduces conflict with other ocean uses and protects resources. The plan focuses on overcoming three key challenges:

  • the relatively high cost of offshore wind energy
  • technical challenges surrounding installation, operations, and grid interconnection
  • and the lack of site data and experience with project permitting processes.

The announcement comes two months after a coalition of state and national groups released Offshore Wind in the Atlantic: Growing Momentum for Jobs, Energy Independence, Clean Air, and Wildlife Protection (pdf), calling for identification and review of high priority zones with minimal conflict to the environment and to other ocean users that can be prioritized for quicker permitting.

"Today’s announcement creates more momentum for offshore wind projects in the Atlantic Ocean, and we look forward to seeing additional areas identified for offshore wind development along the east coast," said Bowes. "Targeted investment in improving technology and removing barriers, such as the risk of environmental impact, will help create more certainty and demand for offshore wind. With a balanced permitting approach that prioritizes areas low in conflict, we can also ensure the protection of the Atlantic’s precious ecosystem and specifically its fish and wildlife resources.”

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