Offshore Wind Farms in U.S. Gain Key Approval

Obama administration moves forward with leasing process in mid-Atlantic region.

Offshore wind energy development in the United States cleared a major regulatory hurdle Feb. 2 when the Obama administration said an assessment found no significant environmental and socioeconomic impacts from issuing wind energy leases off the mid-Atlantic coast.

"We are moving toward commercial-scale offshore wind energy leasing in the mid-Atlantic and adding the necessary tools to offer those leases, said Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Tommy Beaudreau in a prepared statement. "We considered public input and conducted a thorough analysis to ensure future projects are sited in the right places where the wind energy potential is significant and where environmental effects and conflicts with other uses can be minimized and managed."

The approval allows the Department of Interior to move forward with the process of issuing wind energy lease sales off the Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Delaware coasts.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar launched a wind energy initiative in November 2010 to build wind energy projects in the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf.

The environmental assessment considered the potential impacts including the installation of meteorological towers and buoys on leases that may be issued in the areas.

The announcement cuts the permitting process for the lease sales by two years and is considered a significant development for the wind energy industry, said Chris Long, manager of offshore policy for the American Wind Energy Association.

"The main message from yesterday's event is that this will help us capture a new American manufacturing opportunity and create thousands of American jobs," Long said.

Land-based wind energy in the United States has already resulted in 75,000 new jobs and 400 manufacturing facilities across 43 states, he said.

The administration has published calls for information and nominations for Maryland and Virginia to solicit lease nominations from industry and request public comments regarding site conditions, resources and uses of wind energy areas.

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