US offshore wind leasing round to take off this year

Plans to build a generation of offshore wind farms off the coast of America are set to take a major step forward this year, after the government confirmed that a major new leasing round would not damage the environment.

US interior secretary Ken Salazar yesterday said he expected to invite developers this year to bid for leases to build up to 10GW of new projects in four designated “wind energy areas” on the Outer Continental Shelf off the coast of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia.

He confirmed that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management had completed a fast-tracked environmental assessment of the zone and found there would be no significant environmental and socioeconomic impacts from issuing wind energy leases in designated Outer Continental Shelf areas off the mid-Atlantic Coast.

“No developer should have to wait nine or 10 years to get a lease,” he told reporters. “Our goal is to hold auctions and issue leases by the end of 2012.”

Salazar last year announced a strategy that set a target to deploy 10GW of offshore wind capacity by 2020, at a cost of energy of ¢10 per kWh. Capacity would then increase to 54GW by 2030, forming a vital part of president Obama’s wider goal to supply 80 per cent of US electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.

The news was welcomed by Denise Bode, chief executive of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), who said the lease would be a major boost for the industry.

“AWEA applauds secretary Salazar and his staff at the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for their careful and thorough review of this issue and for today’s announcement, moving offshore wind development forward in the mid-Atlantic region,” it said.

“This announcement is a significant milestone in efforts to launch a vital new American offshore wind industry. Developing America’s offshore wind resource will help us capture a new American manufacturing opportunity and create thousands of new American jobs.”

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