A few weeks ago, I commented on how Canada is selling parts of its Atlantic coast to BP, Shell and other oil companies, and on how these deals could mean new oilrigs off the coast of Nova Scotia. This week, the US is also opening up parts of their Atlantic coast for sale – but this time, for offshore wind farms instead of fossil fuel companies.
The Obama administration and the department of the interior is planning on selling around 432 square miles of Atlantic ocean off the coasts of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Virginia. The first sea zone is 10 miles off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts, and the second sea zone is located 23 miles off the coast southern Virginia. Bidding is expected to start some time in the first half of 2013.
If the bidding and development is successful, these new turbines will be the first offshore wind projects ever created in the US. That’s not to say, of course, that the US hasn’t been accommodating; hundreds of turbines have already been built in vast wind farms littered across the countryside. However, considering the fact that wind energy accounts for a mere 3% of US energy, there’s still a lot of room for development. With enough clean, renewable wind energy to power 1.4 million homes, the sea could be just the place to start.
And the Obama administration is looking more and more interested on making this necessary development towards environmental sustainability. In a public statement, the interior secretary of state Ken Salazar stated, “…we are moving closer to tapping into this massive domestic energy resource to create jobs, increase energy security and strengthen our nation’s competitiveness in this new energy frontier.”
Despite the progressive picture that the US’ re-elected administration is painting for renewable energy, the future is still far from certain. Attacks in congress against wind energy and other renewables, such as the No More Solyndros Act, may very well cripple wind energy before they even begin bidding. In fact, some estimates predict that the wind industry will slow down to a halt at the end of the year due to the expiry of various tax credits and subsidies. Without those benefits, wind energy simply won’t stand a competitive edge against more developed oil, coal, and gas companies.
I can only hope that these attacks will lose their steam in the coming months. After all, great leaps in sustainable energy development from France, Germany and Japan have all greatly increased public confidence in renewables. On the other hand, the Alberta Oil Sands, the BP oil spill, and the countless lawsuits connected to fracking have all decreased the once-positive image of the fossil fuel sector. With enough luck and with enough government backing, 2013 will be the year we see the rise of offshore wind farms instead of offshore oilrigs.