Last week, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar met with several hundred key offshore wind stakeholders in Boston to summarize developments in renewable energy during his tenure (the President's first term).
With Salazar's unqualified support, Obama has elevated renewable energy development to a departmental priority. “We have made impressive gains, approving dozens of utility-scale solar, wind, and geothermal projects in the West and transitioning from planning to commercial leasing for offshore wind,” Salazar told attendees in his keynote address at the Offshore Wind Power USA Conference.
Renewable projects initiated during the first Obama term are expected to support 13,000 construction and operations jobs. They will ease the temporary boom-and-bust phenomenon and severe environmental impacts of conventional energy development and are expected to power 3.4 million homes, or over 4% of the nation's full-time year-round housing stock.
The Obama Administration’s signature achievement in the area of wind energy may have been the historic issuance of a lease and approval of a Construction and Operations Plan for the 130-turbine Cape Wind project, the first commercial wind development slated for federal offshore waters after 10 years of controversy.
Interior also issued two noncompetitive commercial wind leases, one off Massachusetts and another off Delaware. Seven commercial wind farms were established onshore during this time.
2013 will be a pivotal year for the wind industry, Salazar said. The one-year extension on tax credits of $12.1 billion for the wind-energy accomplished during the fiscal cliff budget deal and $180 million available from the Department of Energy to foster breakthrough wind power technologies over the next five years fully support the achievement of Interior's wind energy goals.
The Interior Department will hold the first-ever competitive auctions for commercial wind development in the Atlantic this year.
Under a "Smart-from-the-Start" strategy, Interior pinpointed six Wind Energy Areas along the Atlantic coast that contain the great wind potential and few conflicts with competing uses. Tracts off Virginia and Rhode Island/Massachusetts comprise nearly a quarter million offshore acres for development. These areas could produce enough electricity to power nearly another 2% of American homes.
The Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will also propose leasing areas off New Jersey and Maryland and will continue working to determine industry interest in three areas off North Carolina. BOEM also is processing a lease request from a company with Department of Energy funding to develop state-of-the-art floating wind turbines in federal waters off Maine. Other demonstration projects are proposed off Virginia and Oregon.
In addition, BOEM is considering a mid-Atlantic wind energy transmission line that would add additional wind turbine capacity to the existing American power grid. This Atlantic Wind Connection would run from southern Virginia to northern New Jersey, collecting power produced by wind facilities off New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia and linking it to the nation's onshore grid.
On the surface, these accomplishments may seem like a drop in the bucket, but they are altogether achievements Salazar can be proud of in his upcoming retirement.
Award-winning science writer Sandy Dechert covers energy and environmental issues in conventional, solar, wind, biomass, large and small hydroelectric, and geothermal energy. She has followed developments throughout President Obama's first term and the 2012 election. Sandy has also reported on extreme weather disasters and the phenomenon and mitigation of climate change.
If this article interests you, please "like" it, share or tweet, and/or send me a question or comment! To keep up with the most current news from science writer Sandy Dechert, follow my blog or subscribe here and Examiner will email you when I publish new articles. All pictures and quotations here remain the property of their respective owners. To repost this report in part or completely, contact the author for a swift response at email@example.com. Tweet @sandydec for updates. Thanks for reading!