Opening the Atlantic Coast for Offshore Wind Farms

The U.S. Department of the Interior has cleared the way for what could become the first offshore wind projects in the country. Next year, lease sales will be offered on 278,00 acres of land off the coasts of Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Virginia.
December 4, 2012, 5am PST | Jessica Hsu
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The government claims that the coastal winds off the Atlantic coast are powerful enough to supply energy to 1.4 million homes. Wind constitutes just 3% of energy use in the United States, but officials are aiming to increase the number of windfarms on- and offshore. "Wind energy along the Atlantic holds enormous potential, and today we are moving closer to tapping into this massive domestic energy resource to create jobs, increase our energy security and strengthen our nation's competitiveness in this new energy frontier," said Ken Salazar, the Interior Secretary, in announcing the locations of two federally approved "wind zones." Over the last few years, hundreds of wind turbines have been installed across America, but the lease sales in 2013 will provide land for what could become the first offshore turbines in the country.

"But building turbines offshore costs far more than building them on land," warns Suzanne Goldenberg. "It has also proven controversial." For 15 years, the first offshore project, Cape Wind, was stalled over environmental concerns and conflicts with local groups. Officials have made sure to avoid the same controversy with the federally parcels by choosing areas "best suited" to wind development. The first zone off Rhode Island and Massachusetts will be leased in two parts, and the sale will be "a first step in opening up offshore areas." Other areas to be leased in the future could include the coastal waters off of North Carolina, New Jersey, Oregon and Hawaii.

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Published on Saturday, December 1, 2012 in The Guardian
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