In efforts to become a world leader in renewable energy, the U.S. Government will confirm the most favorable areas for offshore wind development, known as Wind Energy Areas (WEA), in the next couple of months.
The Obama Administration has been working closely with state governments, task forces and stakeholders along the east coast of America to identify the WEA's they think are the most suitable for locating offshore wind power. The main reason the U.S. Government has got involved at this stage is to provide robustness to the business decisions that will ultimately have to be made when investment is required to take the wind farms to reality.
There have been significant hurdles with the current permitting process for offshore wind farms in the U.S, which can take much longer than non-renewable energy projects, such as coal-fired power plants.
"Offshore wind does not need the same level of scrutiny as fossil fuels because the threat to the environment in not even comparable … there could never be a BP of offshore wind", explains Jim Lanard, President of the Offshore Wind Development Coalition.
So agencies, such the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will now be part of the team making sure that solid information is available prior to going ahead with full Environmental Impact Statements. The announcement has also assisted with providing clarity by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's to some of the existing permitting processes for offshore wind farms in the U.S.
Some of the areas of environmental concern over the development of offshore wind farms include protecting important marine habitats, reducing the damage from pipelines and visual pollution. Careful sitting of the projects should assist with reducing the environmental impacts.
The U.S are now eagerly awaiting its first fully operational large scale offshore wind farm likely to be in the Nantucket Sound, Massachusetts, which has taken over 10 years to progress to the green light stage.
This major initiative by the U.S. Government will assist renewable energies, such as wind power, to develop and compete with other non-renewable sources of power that currently dominate the U.S power market. In addition, the U.S should then be able to also complete in the international offshore wind power market.