New Obama Administration Rule Paves Way for Offshore Wind Power


New rule approved by Obama administration could speed up offshore wind projects by up to a year.

Identifying that it needs to speed up the regulatory process for permitting offshore wind farms, the U.S. Department of Interior announced last November that it would be streamlining the approval process for offshore wind and unveiled an offshore wind energy strategy that would do so in February.

As part of that strategy, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) Director Michael R. Bromwich have finalized a proposed rule to speed up “the noncompetitive leasing process for commercial renewable energy development on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf.” The change could speed some projects up as much as 6 months to a year.

The change concerns a “redundancy” in the system and doesn’t change the administration’s ability to review, analyze, or monitor projects. Currently, if the BOEMRE starts a commercial leasing and only gets a response indicating interest from one entity, the BOEMRE has to issue another Federal Register notice request for interest. Deeming this unnecessary, if only one entity expresses interest initially, that entity can be awarded the lease without everyone going through the whole process again. Simple, practical change.

Hopefully, this will help the U.S. to quickly develop some offshore wind projects and catch up to other world leaders.

In Europe, which is currently the clear leader in offshore wind power, installed offshore wind power capacity grew from 4 MW in 2000 to 883 MW in 2010. Approximately 1,000 MW to 1,500 MW worth of offshore wind are expected to be added in 2011; wind farms totaling 4,000 MW are under development; and wind farms with a total capacity of 19,000 MW have been approved.

China had 103.5 MW of installed offshore wind power capacity at the end of 2010 but it’s got big plans and is projected to have 30,000 MW worth of offshore wind by 2020.

Now, that brings us to the U.S., which has tremendous offshore wind resources — offshore wind farms along the Atlantic coast could reportedly power up to one third of the nation — but doesn’t have a single offshore wind farm up yet. What will probably be the nation’s first offshore wind farm, Cape Wind, was approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior in April 2010 after a decade-long permitting battle.

Cape Wind officials say completion of the wind farm will take about two years after construction begins in late 2011.

Article by Zachary Shahan, appearing courtesy ecopolitology.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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