Environmental, labour groups promote offshore wind energy development in U.S.

The report calls for a permitting process that’s friendlier to offshore wind power, establishment of priority zones for offshore wind, more research on offshore wind technologies, and efforts to promote quality jobs, especially in manufacturing, that would result from that industry.

The report was prepared by the National Wildlife Federation and co-sponsored by more than 35 other organizations, including the Natural Resources Council of Maine and Environment Maine. The Maine AFL-CIO supports its findings.

The report, unveiled in Portland, surfaced barely a week after U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar promised to spur offshore wind projects in the Atlantic Ocean by expediting permits and identifying promising areas for wind power. He promised a "smart permitting process" that could result in leases issued within two years, instead of seven years or more.

The University of Maine has received more than US$20 million in federal funding for its work on offshore wind power. Its Advanced Structures and Composites Center plans to have the first small-scale offshore wind farm, with five, five-megawatt wind turbines, operating between 2014 and 2016 and a farm with 200 wind turbines up and running by 2020.

The wind farms would be 16 to 80 kilometres offshore, out of sight from land. Four large-scale, land-based wind farms, including New England’s largest, also operate in Maine and more are under construction or proposed.

Of the 212 gigawatts of wind power potential off the Atlantic coast, wind projects harnessing six gigawatts have been proposed or are advancing through the permitting process, according to the report. Those proposed projects would generate the equivalent of up to a half dozen coal-fired plants, enough to supply the needs of about 1.5 million homes annually.

"Not a single offshore wind turbine is spinning off the Atlantic coast of the United States," the report says.

While Atlantic wind resources are largely untapped, European countries have more than 900 turbines producing enough power for at least 450,000 homes. Even offshore wind-power goals of European countries and China dwarf those of the United States.

Offshore wind offsets the need for fossil fuels such as coal and oil, whose consumption leads to environmental damage, including global warming, and a range of public health risks including thousands of premature deaths, says the report. The development of an offshore wind industry would create thousands of jobs.

In Maine alone, the Ocean Energy Task Force says development of 5,000 megawatts of offshore wind would create 16,700 new or retained jobs per year for 20 years. The report also cites studies showing a potential for roughly 10,000 jobs in Virginia and nearly 2,000 jobs in South Carolina resulting from offshore wind.

The report lists proposed projects, or projects that have moved to advanced steps such as leasing or power contracts, in 13 East Coast states. Besides Maine, they include New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.

Up and down the Atlantic coast, states and offshore wind developers are making significant progress in advancing offshore projects according to a new report. The report finds that up to six gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind projects have been proposed along the Atlantic coast-the equivalent of about five coal-fired power plants and enough to power about 1.5 million average U.S. homes. Based on government analysis, the Atlantic Ocean has significant offshore wind potential, with more than 212 GW of wind resources in shallow waters where current technology is best suited.

In New York, the report finds a total 37.4 GW of wind potential in shallow water, 15 GW of which are commercially viable when environmental and socioeconomic factors are taken into account. The report includes a chart for each state’s offshore wind resource, breaking down the data by water depth and distance offshore.

Featured in the report, the Long Island-NYC Offshore Wind Project is expected to solicit bids from private developers early next year. Transmission and environmental studies are being conducted, and the New York Power Authority has authorized the application for the lease of 64,500 acres of land beneath the Atlantic Ocean for development of the project in June 2010. When completed, the project’s initial generation capacity will be 350 megawatts (MW), enough power to supply 78,750 to 105,000 homes. Long Island-NYC Offshore Wind Project has the potential for expansion up to 700 MW.

Despite a great deal of capacity, the Long Island-NYC Offshore Wind Project is the only project of its kind advancing in New York State.

"Nine hundred and eighty four offshore wind turbines are spinning right now in Europe and not one in the Atlantic," said Curtis Fisher, Offshore Wind Initiative Leader at the National Wildlife Federation. "The six gigawatts of proposed Atlantic offshore wind projects are a great start, but we need a coordinated and comprehensive effort of government and the market to bring these and other projects over the finish line in a way that values the precious Atlantic Ocean ecosystem and its fish and wildlife resources. This new industry holds great potential to create jobs, cut pollution, and reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels."

The report, Offshore Wind in the Atlantic: Growing Momentum for Jobs, Energy Independence, Clean Air, and Wildlife Protection, makes the following key findings:

• Every state with significant offshore wind resources from Maine to Georgia has some taken some steps forward on offshore wind. Northern states (Maine to Maryland) have the most advanced projects while Southern states (Virginia to Georgia) are quickly mobilizing on a series of projects. See detailed chart and state profiles.

• The Atlantic’s shallow water characteristics combined with excellent wind speed make it an ideal location for offshore wind farms. 93 percent of offshore wind projects worldwide are in shallow waters (zero to 30 meters deep). Close to half of the United States’ shallow water offshore wind is along the Atlantic coast.

• While the most extensive European study concluded that offshore wind farms do not appear to have long-term or large-scale ecological impacts, major data gaps for the Atlantic Ocean still exist and site-specific impacts need to be evaluated. A coordinated, comprehensive, and well-funded effort is needed to address these gaps and improve the permitting process.

"The Long Island Power Authority is encouraged by the preliminary analysis of the LI-NYC Offshore Wind Farm which demonstrates that a 350-700MW offshore wind project located 13-17 miles off the Rockaway Peninsula is technically feasible to integrate into our electric system," said Michael Hervey, Chief Operating Officer. "We remain committed to not only continue with the next phase of the process, but also to bring this wind project to fruition provided it is cost effective for our customers. To address these cost issues, we need all interest groups to show their steadfast support for common sense clean energy policies that create jobs across the region and this commendable report by the National Wildlife Federation lays some of the groundwork to enable these types of projects to move forward."

"I commend the National Wildlife Federation, the Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment and all those who worked hard to provide the public with facts and information regarding offshore wind turbines," said Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg, who has been closely following the issue.

"Building offshore wind farms in the Atlantic Ocean is a clear, definitive step in moving away from our dependence on fossil fuel. The benefit of a cleaner energy source is enhanced by the fact that it will create much needed jobs," stated Nassau County Legislator Denise Ford.

"Offshore wind development presents a tremendous job creation opportunity for America," stated Stewart Acuff, Chief of Staff at the Utility Union Workers of America AFL-CIO (UWUA). "In these difficult economic times, offshore wind is perhaps the most promising game in town to grow quality, high-paying jobs here at home. Our members stand ready and willing to take advantage of these new jobs and help lead America in this exciting new direction."

"Atlantic wind is a clean job generator that will lessen our dependence on dirty fossil fuels. And if it’s done right, offshore wind development will have little impact on our precious coastlines and the New Yorkers who make their living from these waters," said Ross Gould, Air & Energy Program Director, Environmental Advocates of New York.

"We need to accelerate our nation’s transition from an energy system doomed for failure to one that is sustainable. Fortunately, the east coast has a powerful offshore wind resource. Today’s decisions determine tomorrow’s energy plan. Our future lies in today’s political leaders, who need to stand up and say yes to wind. Offshore wind power can be real in America, just as it is in Europe if government, stakeholders and utility companies work together," Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment.

"We commend the National Wildlife Federation and its partners in the environmental community for highlighting the Atlantic states’ vast, untapped potential for offshore wind energy," said Carol E. Murphy, Executive Director of the Alliance for Clean Energy New York (ACE NY). "In the effort to combat climate change, offshore wind energy has an important role to play in reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and helping to preserve the Atlantic Ocean’s precious natural resources and wildlife. At the same time, we would be remiss if we didn’t recognize the major economic opportunity we have to create a homegrown offshore wind industry. While New York and many of its neighbors have made important strides in developing individual projects, with a clear vision and a concerted, organized effort in place, we can realize the full economic and environmental potential of offshore wind energy."

"Long Islanders and New Yorkers are blessed with an abundant natural resource right here at our doorstep, yet we have not even begun to turn our powerful offshore breezes into urgently needed clean energy," said Gordian Raacke, Executive Director of Renewable Energy Long Island, a regional not-for-profit organization. "While offshore wind farms are already powering the transition to low-carbon economies in Europe, New York and other Atlantic States are in a unique position not only to develop a significant clean energy supply but to create jobs and an offshore wind industry in the United States."

"The Long Island Association has a long history of supporting clean energy programs, including the commercial deployment of the offshore wind," stated Kevin Law, President, Long Island Association. "It is a well known fact that Long Island does not have many energy options. We can turn this fact into a positive with offshore wind by investing our hard-earned dollars in creating home-grown energy that will create jobs and stimulate economic growth rather than sending our dollars to other states which we import electricity from."

The report was released along the coast today in conjunction with many national and state partners including environmental, sportsmen, labor, and business organizations. These groups call on the federal government to take the following steps:

• Improve the offshore wind permitting process,

• Identify ideal, high priority sites with limited resource conflicts off of the Atlantic for quick and thorough permitting,

• Invest in and speed research of offshore wind technology and environmental impacts,

• Coordinate planning with existing infrastructure and industries such as ports and fishing.

National and regional cosponsors include: Utility Workers Union of America, Environment America, National Audubon, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Conservation Law Foundation, and the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.

State cosponsors include: Maine: Natural Resources Council of Maine, Environment Maine, Maine Wind Industry Initiative; New Hampshire: Environment New Hampshire; Massachusetts: Mass Audubon, Environment Massachusetts, Environmental League of Massachusetts; Rhode Island: Environment Council of Rhode Island, Environment Rhode Island; New York: Renewable Energy Long Island, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Environmental Advocates of New York, Alliance for Clean Energy New York, Environment New York; New Jersey: New Jersey Audubon, Environment New Jersey; Delaware: Delaware Nature Society, Clean Air Council, League of Women Voters; Maryland: Environment Maryland; Virginia: Virginia Conservation Network, Environment Virginia, Sierra Club-Virginia; North Carolina: North Carolina Wildlife Federation, Environment North Carolina; South Carolina: South Carolina Wildlife Federation; Georgia: Georgia Wildlife Federation, Environment Georgia; and Florida: Florida Wildlife Federation, Environment Florida.

The National Wildlife Federation is America’s largest conservation organization inspiring Americans to protect wildlife for our children’s future.