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Obama administration to give $170 million for offshore wind projects

The Obama administration will provide $170 million in funding for seven wind projects as part of an effort to launch the US offshore wind industry amid low natural gas prices and looming expiration of a key industry subsidy, the Department of Energy said Wednesday.

US Energy Secretary Steven Chu said federal money for these projects off Maine, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Virginia will be used for wind installations in state and federal waters. Some of these projects could be in commercial operation by 2017.

“The United States has tremendous untapped clean energy resources, and it is important for us to develop technologies that will allow us to utilize those resources in ways that are economically viable,” Chu said in a statement. The funding “paves the way to a cleaner, more sustainable and more diverse domestic energy portfolio that develops every source of American energy.”

Under the funding program, each project will receive up to $4 million for engineering, design and permitting work. DOE then plans to pick up to three projects which will receive up to $47 million each over four years for siting, construction and installation costs in order to be in operation by 2017.

The projects to receive federal dollars under Wednesday’s announcement include proposals to build four 3-MW turbines by Statoil and two 6-MW turbines by the University of Maine, both offshore Maine; two 6-MW turbines offshore Virginia Beach by Dominion; five 6-MW turbines by Principle Power near Coos Bay, Oregon; three 6-MW turbines by Baryonyx Corporation near Port Isabel, Texas; nine 3-MW turbines by Lake Erie Development Corporation near Cleveland; and a proposal by Fisherman’s Atlantic City Windfarm for offshore New Jersey.

DOE in 2011 awarded $42 million to 42 wind research and development projects in the Great Lakes, along the Atlantic Coast and the Gulf of Mexico.

The federal awards come at a time when many experts believe offshore wind projects may be impractical due to the comparatively high costs of construction, the low price of natural gas and the expiration of the production tax credit for wind, set for the end of this year.