U.S. signs lease for first major offshore wind farm

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey Wed Oct 6, 2010 12:03pm EDT

A power-generating windmill turbine operates in a wind farm on Backbone Mountain near Thomas, West Virginia August 28, 2006. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

A power-generating windmill turbine operates in a wind farm on Backbone Mountain near Thomas, West Virginia August 28, 2006.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey (Reuters) - U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Wednesday formally signed the nation's first lease for a major offshore wind project, as the Obama administration pushes forward to boost renewable energy output.

The lease for the controversial $1 billion Cape Wind wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts officially ends a nine-year regulatory process for the project.

"Our responsibility now is to take the lessons learned from that process - and from the growing pool of experiences with offshore wind development around the globe - and build a smart U.S. program," Salazar said at an offshore wind energy conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The Obama administration has made renewable energy a top priority, pouring billions of dollars into the green energy sector through its stimulus package in an effort to create jobs and reduce U.S. dependence on fossil fuels.

But with the failure of the Senate to pass a comprehensive climate change package this year, the White House has pledged to renew its focus on energy policy in 2011.

The approval of the Cape Wind lease follows two high profile announcements on solar energy this week.

On Tuesday, the Obama administration unveiled plans to place solar panels on the White House for the first time since the 1980s. The solar panels, expected to be installed some time next summer, will turn sunlight into electricity and save about $3,000 a year in fuel bills.

The Interior Department also awarded the nation's first federal licenses for solar plants to operate on public land. NTR's Tessera Solar received approval for a 709-megawatt plant and Chevron Corp's Chevron Energy Solutions won approval for its 45-megawatt plant.

Tessera's plant should be able to power at least 212,000 homes once its operating, while the Chevron plant would generate enough power for at least 13,500 homes. Both plants are located in California.

Salazar said similar approvals are on the way as the department fast tracks certain solar projects.

Calling the Cape Wind project a "pioneer" in its field, Salazar promised his department would also cut down on offshore wind project approval times by identifying high priority leasing areas and providing companies with more guidance on environmental projects.

Ramping up U.S. offshore wind development could be a major boon for turbine makers such as General Electric Co, Vestas Wind Systems A/S and Siemens AG.

A study released by ocean conservation group, Oceana in September found offshore wind energy has the potential to meet up to half of the current electricity demand of the densely populated East Coast.

Cape Wind, which will provide electricity to about 400,000 homes, faced stiff opposition from wealthy home and business owners on the coast of Cape Cod as well as local native tribes, who argued the tall wind turbines would sully their coastal views.

The project had a major breakthrough when Interior finally green lighted the wind farm earlier this year.

(Reporting by Ayesha Rascoe;editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)

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Comments (3)
ginchinchili wrote:
I think the Cape Wind wind farm is great news and points us in the direction we need to be headed in our energy police. However, I think the Obama Administration’s claim to want to help “green” tech companies develop jobs in the US is simply empty political rhetoric.

There is a new company called Vu1 Corp that has developed a new lighting technology. It’s an American company but they have their manufacturing plant in the Czech Republic because being a struggling upstart company with very limited financing they’ve had to keep costs as low as possible just to survive and the Czech Republic plant came cheap.

Vu1 will be making the debut within the coming weeks. Their light bulbs are energy efficient, they do not contain mercury like CFLs do (or any other toxic materials), they are fully dimmable, their light quality is indistinguishable from incandescent light, and they are a lot cheaper than LEDs.

Their manufacturing plant in the Czech Republic has a limited manufacturing capacity and they will have to build another plant. If they got some help from Uncle Sam in the form of loans or grants they would be willing to build that plant here in the US. If this company doesn’t fit the description of the kind of company Obama claims to want to help here in the US, I don’t know what he’s looking for. That’s why I don’t believe his rhetoric on wanting to help green tech companies grow here in the US.

I’ve contacted the White House, VP Biden’s office, the Dept of Energy, the Clinton Foundation and several Senators and Congressmen. I haven’t heard back from a single entity.

I’ve thoroughly researched this company and it is the real McCoy. They will do well with or without our government’s help. The question is, where will they build their second manufacturing plant and create those jobs that will come with it. This is too good of an opportunity for this Administration to pass on.

Oct 07, 2010 8:19am EDT  --  Report as abuse
r.felder wrote:
The White House will save $3,000 annually by installing solar panels. How much did it cost to buy and install them? Plus ongoing maintenance costs? This detail was left out.

Oct 07, 2010 9:00am EDT  --  Report as abuse
MekhongKurt wrote:
r.felder, no doubt those costs are in line with costs for similar installations in other places. And, as is the case with comparable installations, it likely will take several years to recover those costs. Next question?

I’m just waiting for the howls to arise over allowing alternative energy plants to go on public lands. The howlers will, beyond any shadow of a doubt, choose to utterly ignore the fact that coal mines, for instance, have long been allowed on such lands. For that matter, I doubt they’ll want to talk about the leasing of public lands to ranchers for grazing on lease terms amounting to a mere pittance.

Yep, heaven FORBID that any solar installations or wind turbine farms be allowed on public lands!!!

Oct 07, 2010 11:35am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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