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The Interior Department has just announced its biggest ever offshore wind energy lease, tripling the federal acreage for offshore wind energy development.

Clean Power

Biggest Ever Offshore Wind Energy Auction, Up To 5 Gigawatts

The Interior Department has just announced its biggest ever offshore wind energy lease, tripling the federal acreage for offshore wind energy development.

Yep, you heard that right. The US is sitting on up to five gigawatts of offshore wind energy from just one leasing site alone, and the Interior Department has just put it up for auction. Located off the coast of Massachusetts, this is the largest ever single offshore wind energy site to be auctioned off in the US.

offshore wind energy

Sheringham Shoal Offshore Wind Farm courtesy of NHD.

More Offshore Wind Energy For The USA

Despite its generous portion of offshore wind energy potential, especially along the relatively easy to access Atlantic Coast, the US offshore wind energy industry has been lagging far behind other nations.

That’s due to political factors more than technology, but industry insiders at recent offshore wind energy conference were optimistic that the logjam is breaking.

Part of the breakthrough involves a series of new offshore wind energy site leases issued this year by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. So far between competitive and non-competitive leasing the Bureau has put out 357,000 offshore acres for wind energy development, spread out off the coasts of Delaware, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland, and Virginia.

 

Another factor in the optimistic outlook is the Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium, which commits East Coast states to collaborate on offshore wind development.

Biggest Offshore Wind Energy Lease Ever

How big is the new offshore wind site? This big, according to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell:

This sale will triple the amount of federal offshore acreage available for commercial-scale wind energy projects, bringing Massachusetts to the forefront of our nation’s new energy frontier.

The site consists of more than 742,000 acres about 12nautical miles offshore (map). An analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory shows that the developed site could yield between four and five gigawatts.

Those of you familiar with the wind energy field will recognize some names in the list of qualified bidders, which includes some of the top companies in the industry.

That would be Deepwater Wind New England, LLC, EDF Renewable Development, Inc., Energy Management, Inc., Fishermen’s Energy, LLC, Green Sail Energy, LLC, IBERDROLA RENEWABLES, Inc., NRG Bluewater Wind Massachusetts, LLC, OffshoreMW, LLC, RES America Developments, Inc., Sea Breeze Energy, LLC, US Mainstream Renewable Power (Offshore), Inc., U.S. Wind, Inc.

Meanwhile, Back In New Jersey

We’re particularly interested in Fisherman’s Energy because it is already well into the process of developing offshore wind for New Jersey.

However, while Massachusetts officials are already relishing the prospect of new jobs along with more access to locally sourced clean energy, it appears that New Jersey is doing everything it can to stall the project (here’s one hint why).

In the most recent maneuvering, Fisherman’s won a whopping $47 million Energy Department grant aimed at developing next-generation offshore wind technology, only to have its financial plan rejected by the state’s Board of Public Utilities.

That happened just last Friday and the company already has plans in the works fight the issue in court. If it wins, that puts New Jersey back in the race to be the first ever state in the US to hook up an offshore wind farm to the electrical grid.

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Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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