White House Sets Rules for Offshore Wind Farms

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NEW YORK — The Obama administration took a step toward boosting development of renewable energy Wednesday, announcing final rules for offshore wind-power development

The Department of the Interior announced a program to grant leases, easements and rights of way for the development of offshore wind farms. The program also puts in place methods for sharing revenue from offshore renewable energy projects with coastal states.

“On this Earth Day, it is time for us to lay a new foundation for economic growth by beginning a new era of energy exploration in America,” President Barack Obama said Wednesday, according to remarks prepared for delivery in Newton, Iowa, where he traveled to mark Earth Day and tour a former Maytag plant that is now used to produce towers for wind-energy production.

Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats have touted wind power and other renewable energy sources as an alternative to power plants that run on fossil fuels that emit the heat-trapping gases blamed for climate change. The U.S. currently has no offshore wind farms, and the few plans that have gotten some traction, such as a project for a farm off Cape Cod, Mass., have at times been met with fierce opposition from local residents.

The guidelines from the department’s Minerals Management Service are a “demonstration that the Obama administration recognizes the potential for offshore wind to enhance energy independence, contribute to addressing climate change and create new jobs,” said Jim Gordon, the president of Cape Wind Associates, the company that is planning to build a 420-megawatt wind farm in Nantucket Sound, Mass.

MMS’s final rule on offshore wind development came as the New York Power Authority said Wednesday that it will partner with several public and private organizations to develop wind power projects off the coast of the Great Lakes.

In March, the Department of the Interior and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission resolved a longstanding regulatory dispute over which agency has primary authority to site offshore wind farms. Under the agreement, the MMS is responsible for rules governing the wind projects and FERC has approval over siting.

Lawmakers had expressed concern that an absence of offshore wind rules would allow speculators to seek permits for projects, blocking access to areas sought by wind developers.

Mr. Salazar said in February that the Atlantic coast has “huge potential” for offshore wind energy production, possibly hinting at an area his department would consider in early lease auctions. Mr. Salazar also said the Southwest and Great Plains regions were of interest.

A 2006 report by the Interior Department said wind energy in the U.S. outer continental shelf has the potential to generate 900,000 megawatts of power, roughly equal to total installed U.S. electrical capacity.

Source: Wall Street Journal

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