An estimated 1 million megawatts of wind power exists off the East Coast, says the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
"Our view is that there is great potential for offshore wind energy in many places, particularly in the Atlantic," Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in announcing the agreement Tuesday in Washington during the Capitol Hill Oceans Week. "Some states along the Atlantic believe 35 to 40 percent of their energy could come from wind energy."
Under the theme "Clean Energy and a Healthy Ocean," planned long before the Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, the event offered Salazar an opportunity to tout the development of energy sources other than natural gas and oil.
"The oil spill tells us in a very clear way that our over-dependence on fossil fuels is an issue we must grapple with as a world and as a nation," Salazar said.
"We must move away from our over-dependence on fossil fuels because our national security requires us to, because our national economy requires us to, and because the future of the planet requires us to," he said.
Following nearly a decade-long review that involved 17 state and federal agencies, Salazar gave the green light to the country’s first offshore wind farm — Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound — on April 28, just eight days after the Deepwater Horizon explosion.
Cape Wind, Salazar said, "will hopefully become the project that shows we can develop wind energy along the outer continental shelf."
Cape Wind’s 130 wind turbines are projected to provide 75 percent of the electricity demand for Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket Island and cut carbon dioxide emissions by 700,000 tons annually. "We knew going first would be the hardest," Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers told Solve Climate.
"All along, we were hoping to blaze the trail for those who follow," he said, saying that the consortium announcement is "another in a series of steps of real collaboration between federal and state governments in moving wind energy forward."
Together, the DOI and the Atlantic governors will use this agreement to facilitate federal-state cooperation for commercial wind development on the OCS off of the Atlantic coast through collaborative efforts on issues of mutual interest.
Under the MOU, the consortium will develop an action plan that sets forth priorities, goals, specific recommendations and steps for achieving the objectives outlined in the agreement.
Several wind energy projects for the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf have been proposed for East Coast states, positioning the region to tap into the enormous potential of wind power in the U.S. Developing this resource could create thousands of manufacturing, construction and operations jobs and displace older, inefficient fossil-fueled generating plants, helping significantly to combat climate change.
Interior’s new Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will oversee the development of wind power and other renewable energy resources on the Outer Continental Shelf.
In addition to cooperation with the governors, Interior will continue to work with local, state, tribal and federal stakeholders to facilitate the commercial leasing process for offshore renewable energy development through inter-governmental task forces.