WASHINGTON — The federal government on Tuesday issued its first exploratory leases for wind energy projects on the Outer Continental Shelf, the first step of what could be a race to harness the powerful Atlantic winds not far from major population cente
The leases will allow wind companies to build testing stations on
federal land off the New Jersey and Delaware coasts. Research already
has shown that the Northeast has relatively shallow water and few
strong hurricanes, which make it a good candidate for existing offshore
The U.S. so far produces no electricity from
offshore winds, putting it far behind the United Kingdom, Denmark and
other northern European countries that have been developing offshore
wind for nearly 20 years.
“We are entering a new
day for energy production in the United States – a time of clean energy
from renewable domestic sources on our Outer Continental Shelf,”
Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar said in a statement.
nations have been using offshore wind energy for more than a decade,”
Salazar said. “We made the development of offshore wind energy a top
priority for Interior. The technology is proven, effective and
available and can create new jobs for Americans while reducing our
expensive and dangerous dependence on foreign oil.”
Britain, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden are the world’s largest producers of electricity from offshore winds.
exploratory leases would allow wind companies to measure wind speed and
intensity and other factors from towers built six to 18 miles offshore.
The next steps would be to apply for a permit for a test turbine, and
then there would be more government reviews before they could construct
turbines, a process that could take several years or more, said
Interior spokesman Frank Quimby.
The leases went to Bluewater
Wind New Jersey Energy; Fishermen’s Energy of New Jersey; Deepwater
Wind and Bluewater Wind Delaware.
Willett Kempton, a professor at
the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean and Environment,
lead a study in 2007 that examined the wind potential from North
Carolina to Massachusetts.
The study, which appeared in
Geophysical Research Letters, found that if wind was tapped offshore
with turbines in water up to 100 meters (330 feet) deep, which is just
within technological reach, the coastal states would produce enough
electricity to satisfy all electrical needs, power all light vehicles
and replace heating fuel for all buildings.
According to Kempton, Delaware’s average offshore winds have the potential to power between 1.2 million and 1.5 million homes.
said the leases Salazar announced were “the first concrete step of the
development of what I believe will be a very large industry in the
Northeast initially and then around the coastal regions of the country.”
already the No. 1 wind state, has been working since 2005 to be the
first state with offshore wind as well. Texas waters extend seven miles
offshore, unlike the three-mile limit in other states. The state
granted five exploratory leases in 2005 to a Louisiana company, Wind
Energy Systems Technology, which built a scientific measurements tower
seven miles off Galveston. As yet, not electric production has begun.
said that existing technology doesn’t allow for turbines that could
withstand Category 5 hurricanes because it was developed in Denmark,
where they’re not an issue, but such turbines could be built, he said.
“It’s not that hard to engineer.”
Cape Wind, a wind farm planned
off Cape Cod, Mass., is still under review by the Minerals Management
Service of the Interior Department.