Feds Speed Offshore Wind with National Plan, $50 Million for R&D

NORFOLK, Virginia, February 7, 2011 (ENS) – The first national offshore wind industry development strategy was unveiled today by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu.

To advance the strategic plan, the Energy Department is offering new funding opportunities of up to $50.5 million over five years for projects that support offshore wind energy deployment.

The Interior Department identified four mid-Atlantic Wind Energy Areas offshore eligible for early environmental reviews that will help to shorten the time required for review, leasing and approval of offshore wind turbine facilities.

The areas, on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore Delaware (122 square nautical miles), Maryland (207), New Jersey (417), and Virginia (165), have been classed as part of Interior’s “Smart from the Start” plan announced in November 2010.

Wind turbines offshore Essex, England (Photo by Delboy1940Essex)

This approach uses coordinated environmental studies, large-scale planning and expedited approval processes to speed offshore wind energy development.

“The mid-Atlantic Wind Energy Areas are a key part of our Smart from the Start program for expediting appropriate commercial-scale wind energy development in America’s waters,” Secretary Salazar said today.

In March, the Interior Department expects to identify Wind Energy Areas off of North Atlantic states, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and launch additional NEPA environmental reviews for those areas. Salazar said a similar process will occur for North Carolina this spring.

The first U.S. offshore wind farm completed its decade-long permitting process in January. Cape Wind has begun ordering materials to construct 130 offshore wind turbines on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound, Massachusetts.

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

As part of the strategic plan, Secretary Chu announced the release of three Department of Energy, DOE, solicitations, representing up to $50.5 million over five years, to develop breakthrough offshore wind energy technology and to reduce specific market barriers to its deployment:

  • DOE will offer up to $25 million over five years to support development of innovative wind turbine design tools and hardware to optimize next-generation offshore wind systems in the United States. Activities will include the development of open-source computational tools, system-optimized offshore wind plant concept studies, and coupled turbine rotor and control systems.
  • DOE offer up to $18 million over three years to support baseline studies and targeted environmental research to characterize key industry sectors and factors limiting the deployment of offshore wind. Activities will include offshore wind market and economic analysis; environmental risk reduction; manufacturing and supply chain development; transmission planning and interconnection strategies; optimized infrastructure and operations; and wind resource characterization.
  • DOE will offer up to $7.5 million over three years to fund the development and refinement of next-generation designs for wind turbine drivetrains, a core technology required for cost-effective offshore wind power.

“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,” Salazar said. “This initiative will spur the type of innovation that will help us create new jobs, build a clean energy future, and compete and win in the technologies of the 21st century.”

The secretaries said that deployment of clean, renewable offshore wind energy will help meet President Barack Obama’s goal of generating 80 percent of the nation’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.

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