Report: Offshore Atlantic Wind is the Next Clean Energy and Jobs Wave

Experts say a coordinated effort by government and the market is still needed to propel wind projects across the finish line

12-01-2010 // Tony Iallonardo
Offshore wind turbine

Up and down the Atlantic coast, states and offshore wind developers are making significant progress in advancing offshore projects, according to a new report.

The report finds up to six gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind projects have been proposed along the Atlantic coast - the equivalent of about five coal-fired power plants and enough to power about 1.5 million average U.S. homes. Based on government analysis, the Atlantic Ocean has significant offshore wind potential, with over 212 GW of wind resources in shallow waters where current technology is best suited.

“More than 980 offshore wind turbines are spinning right now in Europe and not one in the Atlantic, said Curtis Fisher, Offshore Wind Leader, National Wildlife Federation, Northeast Regional Center. “The six gigawatts of proposed Atlantic offshore wind projects are a great start, but we need a coordinated and comprehensive effort of government and the market to bring these and other projects over the finish line in a way that values fish and wildlife. This new industry holds great potential to create jobs, cut pollution, and reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels.

The report, Offshore Wind in the Atlantic: Growing Momentum for Jobs, Energy Independence, Clean Air, and Wildlife Protection, makes the following key findings:

  • Every state with significant offshore wind resources from Maine to Georgia has some taken some steps forward on offshore wind. Northern states (Maine to Maryland) have the most advanced projects while Southern states (Virginia to Georgia) are quickly mobilizing on a series of projects. See detailed chart and state profiles.
  • The Atlantic’s shallow water characteristics combined with excellent wind speed make it an ideal location for offshore wind farms. 93 percent (42 out of the 45) of offshore wind projects worldwide are in shallow waters (zero to 30 meters deep). Close to half of the United States’ shallow water offshore wind is along the Atlantic coast.
  • While the most extensive European study concluded that offshore wind farms do not appear to have long-term or large-scale ecological impacts, major data gaps for the Atlantic Ocean still exist and site-specific impacts need to be evaluated. A coordinated, comprehensive, and well-funded effort is needed to address these gaps and improve the permitting process.

"Offshore wind development presents a tremendous job creation opportunity for America, stated Stewart Acuff, Chief of Staff at the Utility Workers Union of America AFL-CIO (UWUA). “In these difficult economic times, offshore wind is perhaps the most promising game in town to grow quality, high-paying jobs here at home. Our members stand ready and willing to take advantage of these new jobs and help lead America in this exciting new direction."

The report was released along the coast today in conjunction with many national and state partners including environmental, sportsmen, labor, and business organizations. These groups call on the federal government to take the following steps:

  • Improve the offshore wind permitting process,
  • Identify ideal, high priority sites with limited resource conflicts off of the Atlantic for quick and thorough permitting,
  • Invest in and speed research of offshore wind technology and environmental impacts,
  • Coordinate planning with existing infrastructure and industries such as ports and fishing.

“The release of this report marks the beginning of an unprecedented regional network that supports appropriately-sited offshore wind farms in the Atlantic Ocean,” stated Catherine Bowes, Senior Policy Representative at National Wildlife Federation. “We have a great list of report cosponsors and look forward to growing the diversity and power of this network.”

National and regional cosponsors include : Utility Workers Union of America, Environment America, National Audubon Society, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Conservation Law Foundation, and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network. Download a full list of sponsors, including state groups, here (pdf).

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