Sen. Carper Reacts to Administration’s Major Offshore Wind Initiatives Announcement

WASHINGTON – Today, Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) commended the administration’s unveiling of major initiatives in support of offshore wind energy in the United States. Deployment of clean, renewable offshore wind energy will help meet the president’s goal of generating 80 percent of the nation’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.

Earlier today, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced a coordinated strategic plan to accelerate the development of offshore wind energy, as well as new funding opportunities for up to $50.5 million for projects that support offshore wind energy development and several high priority Wind Energy Areas in the mid-Atlantic that will spur rapid, responsible development of this abundant renewable resource.

“I am a firm believer in the promise of offshore wind power and its enormous potential of reliable energy, thousands of good paying American jobs and independence from fuels that pollute our air and drain our economy,” said Sen. Carper. “Today’s announcement further shows the commitment this administration has for offshore wind development off our country’s coasts.”

“At a time of tight budgets, this additional support for offshore wind research and development recognizes the significant benefits that can flow from a modest federal investment in offshore wind technology,” continued Sen. Carper. “This innovation could lower the barriers to deployment and lower overall costs – making offshore wind an even more viable alternative to other energy sources. Our own University of Delaware is on the cutting edge of offshore wind research – that is why I expect some of these funds could help UD continue and broaden its own research.”

“The designation of a wind energy area off of Delaware creates a more thoughtful development process than the one that exists today,” continued Sen. Carper. “This will encourage companies like Delaware’s NRG Bluewater Wind to continue to invest in clean, stable wind energy. However, as this announcement seeks to improve permitting for new offshore wind projects, those proposals already in the Department of Interior’s permitting process should not be left behind. I will continue to work with Secretary of Interior Salazar to see that companies with projects undergoing permit review – like NRG Bluewater Wind has off of Delaware – can complete these near-term projects swiftly.”

“I am dedicated to meeting the president’s goal of generating 80 percent of the nation’s electricity from clean energy sources by 2035,” continued Sen. Carper. “The support, development and deployment of clean, renewable offshore wind energy will help our nation meet that goal and put us on the path to energy independence. I will continue to support offshore wind energy through my work in the Senate, for both the state of Delaware and the rest of the nation.”

The joint National Strategic Work Plan for Offshore Wind made public today is the first-ever interagency plan on offshore wind energy and demonstrates a strong federal family commitment to expeditiously develop a sustainable, world-class offshore wind industry in a way that reduces conflict with other ocean uses and protects resources. The plan focuses on overcoming three key challenges: the relatively high cost of offshore wind energy; technical challenges surrounding installation, operations, and grid interconnection; and the lack of site data and experience with project permitting processes.

In support of this Strategic Work Plan, Secretary Chu announced today the release of three solicitations, representing up to $50.5 million over 5 years, to develop breakthrough offshore wind energy technology and to reduce specific market barriers to its deployment:

  • Technology Development (up to $25 million over 5 years): DOE will support the development of innovative wind turbine design tools and hardware to provide the foundation for a cost-competitive and world-class offshore wind industry in the United States. Specific activities will include the development of open-source computational tools, system-optimized offshore wind plant concept studies, and coupled turbine rotor and control systems to optimize next-generation offshore wind systems.
  • Removing Market Barriers (up to $18 million over 3 years): DOE will support baseline studies and targeted environmental research to characterize key industry sectors and factors limiting the deployment of offshore wind. Specific activities will include offshore wind market and economic analysis; environmental risk reduction; manufacturing and supply chain development; transmission planning and interconnection strategies; optimized infrastructure and operations; and wind resource characterization.
  • Next-Generation Drivetrain (up to $7.5 million over 3 years): DOE will fund the development and refinement of next-generation designs for wind turbine drivetrains, a core technology required for cost-effective offshore wind power.

Today, Salazar also identified four Wind Energy Areas offshore the mid-Atlantic as part of Interior’s ‘Smart from the Start’ approach announced in November 2010 that uses appropriate designated areas, coordinated environmental studies, large-scale planning and expedited approval processes to speed offshore wind energy development. The areas, on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore Delaware (122 square nautical miles), Maryland (207), New Jersey (417) and Virginia (165), will receive early environmental reviews that will help to lessen the time required for review, leasing and approval of offshore wind turbine facilities.

In March, Interior also expects to identify Wind Energy Areas off of North Atlantic states, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and launch additional NEPA environmental reviews for those areas. A similar process will occur for South Atlantic region, namely North Carolina, this spring.

Based on stakeholder and public participation, Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) will prepare regional environmental assessments for Wind Energy Areas to evaluate the effects of leasing and site assessment activities on leased areas. If no significant impacts are identified, BOEMRE could offer leases in these Mid-Atlantic areas as early as the end of 2011 or early 2012. Comprehensive site-specific NEPA review will still need to be conducted for the construction of any individual wind power facility, and BOEMRE will work directly with project managers to ensure that those reviews take place on aggressive schedules.

Under the Strategic Work Plan, the Department of Energy has set an overall national goal of deploying 10 gigawatts of offshore wind generating capacity by 2020 and 54 gigawatts by 2030. Those scenarios include development in both federal and state offshore areas, including along Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts as well as in Great Lakes and Hawaiian waters. Those levels of development would produce enough energy to power 2.8 million and 15.2 million average American homes, respectively.

Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of administration actions to speed renewable energy development offshore by improving coordination with state, local and federal partners, developing wind research and test facilities for new technologies to reduce market barriers, identifying priority areas for potential development and conducting early environmental reviews.