The Obama administration said it plans to make coastal areas available to wind energy developers by the end of the year, the Wall Street Journal reports. This paves the way for the first leases under a program to fast-track offshore wind farms.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said his department found the leases would have no significant impact on the environment, the Journal says.
Federal efforts to speed up the projects could cut years off the approval process, the Washington Post says.
Salazar told the Post recent developments clear the way for auctions and leases later this year and his department is streamlining the process for renewable energy leases. The federal decision also means environmental impact assessments for offshore power won’t have to be conducted.
According to the Post, eleven developers have submitted proposals and are expected to be able to bid for leases later this year. They will still have to do environmental studies of their own areas, but could be producing power in four to five years, the Post notes.
The U.S. gets about 3% of its electricity from land-based wind turbines, but doesn’t have any offshore turbines yet. According to the Journal, wind tends to blow harder over the ocean, which makes for a potentially significant resource.
The push for offshore wind permits has been criticized for being too friendly to the wind energy industry. In Maryland, there are concerns about higher electricity costs as a result of mandates to buy renewable power and groups in New Jersey are concerned about conflicts with fishing, tourism and shipping industries, the Journal says.
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