Secretary of energy Steven Chu and interior secretary Ken Salazar announced on Feb. 7 up to a $50.5 million federal investment in offshore wind farms over the next five years.

About 78 percent of the nation’s electricity demand is in the 28 coastal states, said Chu, who appeared in Norfolk, Va. with Salazar. The two secretaries said they would establish four “wind energy areas” in the outer continental shelf, gathering information about the “environmental and geophysical attributes” of each one. The areas, off the coast of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia, are designated in “leasing blocks” that were originally drawn up for oil drilling. The Department of Interior published a map of the four locales.

Chu said the goal of the investment is to lower the price of offshore wind to levels where it could compete without subsidies.

The government will provide up to $7.5 million for development of new designs for drive trains, which connect the blades to the generator and are a common source of maintenance problems. The new funds also include up to $25 million over five years for the development of wind turbine design tools and hardware. An additional $18 million will go toward “removing market barriers,” which would involve analyzing the wind and the electric market, and transmission planning. The Interior Department has promised careful consideration of an offshore transmission backbone to which many wind farms could connect.

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