U.S. government to begin issuing offshore wind energy leases by next year

The U.S. Interior Department has informed Global Offset Experts that it intends focusing on identifying high priority areas off the Atlantic coast for offshore wind energy development, while also revising regulations in order to simplify the leasing process as part of its new initiative.

"To fully harness the economic and energy benefits of our nation’s vast Atlantic wind potential we need to implement a smart permitting process that is efficient, thorough, and unburdened by needless red tape," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement available to Global Offset Experts.

The department went on to say that it intends moving “aggressively” to ensure that applications for the building of offshore transmission lines which will deliver the power from the wind farms onshore are speedily processed.

This latest initiative to advance wind power may be a considerable boost to a proposed $5 billion offshore wind cable project recently announced by Google Inc and its partners.

In October, Global Offset Experts has learned, renewables firm Cape Wind was awarded the U.S’s first ever lease for a major offshore wind project, but the approval was only granted after almost a decade’s battle with regulatory hurdles for the $1 billion project.

In order to speed up development, the department is to designate “Wind Energy Areas” of the coast of a number of states including Delaware, Virginia and Rhode Island over the next sixty days.

Environmental impact studies for these areas are to begin in January. If no major environmental impacts are revealed the department will begin offering leases in these areas by the end of 2011 or early 2012.

"Efforts to rationalize the multi-step permitting process for offshore wind projects are essential for Eastern states to be able to take advantage of this excellent resource," the American Wind Energy Association chief executive Denise Bode told Global Offset Experts.