Some of the most promising areas for offshore wind energy development in the United States moved closer to seeing the installation of wind turbines on Thursday as the Obama administration released results of an environmental impact study and announced the beginning of the lease process.
Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Tommy P. Beaudrea announced on Thursday that an environmental assessment found that there would be "no significant environmental or socioeconomic impacts from wind energy development" on the Outer Continental Shelf off the Mid-Atlantic Coast states of Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Delaware.
“Offshore wind holds incredible potential for our country, and we’re moving full-steam ahead to accelerate the siting, leasing and construction of new projects,” Secretary Salazar said.
The greatest offshore wind energy potential in the U.S. lies off the Atlantic Coast, which holds 1,000 gigawatts of electricity, or one quarter of national demand, according to a 2009 Interior Department report.
Facing the expiration of the wind energy Production Tax Credit at the end of 2012, a policy tool that has been crucial for commercial-scale wind energy development in the U.S., the wind industry welcomed Thursday's announcement with open arms.
Calling the announcement a "significant milestone," Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, said developing offshore wind energy "will help us capture a new American manufacturing opportunity and create thousands of new American jobs."
Transmission infrastructure in the Mid-Atlantic could ultimately be provided by the Google-backed Atlantic Wind Connection, an undersea transmission cable stretching from northern New Jersey to southern Virginia. First announced in 2010, the transmission project is currently being reviewed by the Interior Department.