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American Shipper

U.S. seeks to speed offshore wind development

U.S. seeks to speed offshore wind development

   The U.S. Interior and Energy departments this week unveiled a joint plan to speed up the country's development of offshore wind energy, including $50.5 million in new funding opportunities for projects that support projects in the Mid-Atlantic.

   Deployment of offshore wind energy will help meet the Obama administration’s goal to generate 80 percent of the nation’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2035, the departments said in a joint statement on Monday.

   “Through the strategic work plan, the United States is synchronizing new research and development initiatives with more efficient, forward-thinking planning so that we can help quickly stand up an American offshore wind industry,' said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

Salazar

   “Offshore wind energy can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, diversify our energy supply, and stimulate economic revitalization,” added Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “The Department of Energy is committed to working with our federal partners to provide national leadership in accelerating offshore wind energy deployment.”

Chu

   The joint National Offshore Wind Strategy: Creating an Offshore Wind Industry in the United States is the first-ever interagency plan on offshore wind energy, and shows strong federal commitment to speed development of the offshore wind industry in a way that 'reduces conflict with other ocean uses and protects resources.'

   The plan focuses on overcoming three key challenges:

   ' Relatively high cost of offshore wind energy.

   ' Technical challenges involving installation, operations and grid interconnection.

   ' Lack of site data and experience with project permitting processes.

   In support of the plan, the Energy Department will release three solicitations, representing up to $50.5 million over 5 years, to develop high-tech offshore wind energy technology and to reduce specific market barriers to its deployment:

   ' Technology development (up to $25 million over 5 years). DOE will support the development of innovative wind turbine design tools and hardware to provide the foundation for a cost-competitive U.S. offshore wind industry.

   ' Removing market barriers (up to $18 million over 3 years). DOE will support studies and environmental research to characterize key industry sectors and factors limiting the deployment of offshore wind, such as manufacturing and supply chain development.

   ' Next-generation drivetrain (up to $7.5 million over 3 years). DOE will fund the development and refinement of next-generation designs for wind turbine drivetrains, a core technology required for cost-effective offshore wind power.

   The Interior Department also identified four wind energy areas offshore the Mid-Atlantic as part of its 'Smart from the Start' approach announced in November 2010 that uses appropriate designated areas, coordinated environmental studies, large-scale planning and expedited approval processes to speed offshore wind energy development.

   The areas, on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore Delaware (122 square nautical miles), Maryland (207), New Jersey (417), and Virginia (165), will receive early environmental reviews that will help to lessen the time required for review, leasing and approval of offshore wind turbine facilities, the department said.

   In March, the Interior Department also expects to identify wind energy areas off of North Atlantic states, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and launch additional environmental reviews for those areas. A similar process will occur for South Atlantic region, namely North Carolina, this spring.

   Based on stakeholder and public participation, Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) will prepare regional environmental assessments for wind energy areas to evaluate the effects of leasing and site assessment activities on leased areas. If no significant impacts are identified, BOEMRE could offer leases in these Mid-Atlantic areas as early as the end of 2011 or early 2012.

   Comprehensive site-specific review will still need to be conducted for the construction of any individual wind power facility, and BOEMRE will work directly with project managers to ensure that those reviews take place on aggressive schedules, the departments said.

   Under the National Offshore Wind Strategy, the Energy Department is pursuing the deployment of 10 gigawatts of offshore wind generating capacity by 2020 and 54 gigawatts by 2030. Those scenarios include development in both federal and state offshore areas, including along Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts as well as in Great Lakes and Hawaiian waters. Those levels of development would produce enough energy to power 2.8 million and 15.2 million average American homes, respectively.

   In related news, this Thursday Spain's Gamesa Technology Corp. and Northrop Grumman will open a facility in Chesapeake, Va. that plans to build the country's first offshore wind turbine by late 2010. Currently planned offshore wind farms will require imports of overseas manufactured turbines. ' Chris Gillis