For First Time, US to Lease Offshore Wind Blocks

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/06/05-1

by Carey L. Biron

WASHINGTON – The U.S. government announced Tuesday that it would be going forward with long-discussed plans to auction federal leases off the Atlantic Ocean coast for the development of offshore wind energy.

  The sales, to take place in late July, will be the first time that federal lands have been offered on a competitive basis for the United States’ nascent offshore wind business. Proponents say the industry has significant potential, but for decades it has lagged far behind the country’s onshore wind sector – even as offshore usage has strengthened significantly in other countries.

“Today’s announcement is an important milestone in efforts to launch the offshore wind industry in the United States,” Chris Long, manager of offshore wind and siting policy for the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group, told IPS. “Offshore wind energy represents a significant opportunity for our country, and developing this industry will help to create thousands of new jobs.”

Currently, the Interior Department has approved nine companies to take part in the auction, which will offer around 165,000 acres in two blocks off the coast of the eastern states of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. A third area off the coast of Virginia could be offered for lease later this year.

According to recent analysis by the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the initial two blocks will be able to produce a regular supply of around 3,500 megawatts, enough to power around a million U.S. homes.

Overall, the United States is thought to have around 4,000 gigawatts (or four million megawatts) of offshore wind potential. That’s almost four times the country’s current electricity production of all types.

“This leasing announcement is a big deal, a significant move forward on what has been an extensive process to identify appropriate sites and give access to try to build in the water,” Dave Hamilton, the director for clean energy with the Sierra Club, a conservation group, told IPS.

“These are important steps, but now getting equipment in the water, finding communities or entities to buy the power at the price producers can make it – that’s all still ahead of this project.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/06/05-1

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