Offshore wind permitting gains momentum

Offshore wind in the United States has been lodged in the permitting and planning stages for over a decade, when the Cape Wind project was first proposed in 2001. After much deliberation, it’s looking as though momentum for offshore wind is beginning to pick up.

During the keynote session for the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Offshore Windpower Conference on Oct. 11, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said that five leases are expected to be issued for offshore wind projects in the Atlantic within the next year.

In February, Salazar and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu unveiled a national offshore wind strategy that pursues the deployment of 10 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2020 and 54 GW by 2030. The plan came with a $50.5 million promise from the Interior and Energy departments to fund opportunities that support offshore wind energy deployment.

Nevertheless, offshore wind development is at a crossroads, Salazar said. “There is a lot that Congress can do to help us move forward.” Without a long-term tax credit in place, investors are hesitant to move forward, he said. Salazar also said that Congress should move forward with a national renewable portfolio standard, which would “increase long-term stability.”

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley spoke during the keynote. During a recent survey of Marylanders, 62 percent said they would be willing to spend more on their electric bill if a portion of it were made up of offshore wind, he said.

“This huge, abundant supply off the coast of this huge concentration of America’s population cries out for offshore wind to be a piece of America’s long-term future,” O’Malley said.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the 28 U.S. coastal states consume 78 percent of the nation’s electricity, but only six could meet even one-fifth of their power demand with land-based wind energy. This leaves a clean energy void that could potentially be filled by offshore wind power.

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