OCEAN CITY – Federal impact studies show areas of the mid-Atlantic coast where offshore wind turbines would have “no significant environmental impact,” the U.S. Interior Secretary announced.
The finding means sections of open ocean off the Maryland coast will be made available for long-term leases for the development of wind turbines.
“We all know the wind potential off the Atlantic coast is staggering … up to 1,000 gigawatts of power,” said Secretary Ken Salazar. “That’s more than the entire nation’s present electric-generating capacity. Atlantic wind can help power cities from Baltimore to Boston to Savannah (Ga.), creating tens of thousands of manufacturing and engineering jobs in the process.”
Salazar said having environmental assessments of the areas off New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia means it won’t take as long to issue permits for offshore wind projects.
“No developer should have to wait nine or 10 years to basically get a lease for offshore wind development,” he said.
A number of developers in Maryland have expressed interest in building wind turbines off the coast of Ocean City, and represents “a real possibility” that offshore wind could be developed nearby, Salazar also said.
The potential wind farm area spans about 80,000 acres, and is split into squares like a chessboard on the open sea. A map would show nine whole blocks and 11 partial blocks.
The space runs about 13 nautical miles north to south, with an eastern edge about 23 nautical miles from Ocean City and a western edge 10 nautical miles out, according to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, a sub-agency of the Interior Department.
Salazar made his announcement Thursday alongside Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who called the announcement “a very positive step” toward the state’s goal that a fifth of its electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2022.
“The only way we’re going to get to our renewable energy portfolio is if we harness the most available and abundant source of renewable energy in our state, which happens to be the Atlantic wind that rolls by off of our coast,” O’Malley said.
Maryland is targeting a 310-megawatt project that would generate about 1,200 jobs over a five-year period, said Abigail Hopper, an energy adviser to the governor.
Advocacy group Environment Maryland in a statement lauded the development, saying its positive environmental impact would be akin to taking millions of cars off the road.
Offshore wind power also could cut back on air pollution and reduce the risk of oil spills.
“There is tremendous potential for producing clean, pollution-free wind energy off of Maryland’s coast,” said Field Organizer Ewa Krason. “Tapping into the power of offshore wind in Maryland is vital to getting our state and the nation off fossil fuels without creating more pollution.”
U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., is a strong supporter of offshore wind energy projects. He called the announcement “an important step to making offshore wind a reality in this country.”
“Creating energy from wind off our coasts just makes sense,” he said. “It is a reliable, clean energy resource that will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, curb harmful air pollutants, and create good paying American jobs in manufacturing and construction.”
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