America has just taken a major step forward in powering our nation with homegrown, clean energy. Today, the first competitive auction for offshore wind energy leases took place for an area off the coast of southern New England – and we have a winner!
Deepwater Wind is the provisional winner of both leases offered for sale in the federally designated Rhode Island-Massachusetts Wind Energy Area, approximately 250 square miles of federal waters located roughly nine nautical miles south of the coast.
Today’s successful auction is the result of a lot of hard work by many key players. The Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has shepherded a complex, multi-state lease sale process to a successful conclusion, building on the essential leadership of Gov. Lincoln Chafee (D-RI) and Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) in pursuing offshore wind power for their states.
And now Deepwater Wind, based in Providence, RI, has won the auction’s big prize.
America Needs Offshore Wind Power
As another summer of record-breaking heat, drought, and wildfires rages on, it is more important than ever to accelerate a transition to clean, renewable energy that does not produce harmful carbon pollution. America has the best offshore wind resource in the world – offering unparalleled opportunities to reduce pollution, generate hundreds of thousands of long-term, high-quality jobs, diversify our energy portfolio, and ensure lower, more predictable energy prices over time.
Today’s offshore wind energy lease auction is an exciting milestone in reaching a new frontier of clean energy needed to confront climate change, the biggest threat to America’s wildlife and birds this century.
It’s also real progress towards President Obama’s climate action plan goal of doubling electricity fueled by renewable energy by 2020 nationally, including 10 gigawatts worth of permits for renewable energy projects on public lands. BOEM has scheduled a second offshore wind energy lease auction for Virginia in September, with New Jersey and Maryland likely to occur later this year.
Minimizing Wildlife Impacts
NWF is tracking the offshore wind energy leasing process very closely, providing input on where and how offshore wind development should occur off our shores in order to ensure strong conservation principles guide our pursuit of this new energy source. Not only do scientific studies show that properly locating wind turbines and requiring best management practices can minimize impacts to wildlife, but transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy benefits all wildlife by providing cleaner air and water and cutting the carbon pollution that causes climate change.
Looking forward, NWF will continue to work with the leaseholder, as well as key federal and state agencies, to ensure that sensitive coastal and marine wildlife – including critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whales – are protected as this process continues.
Generating New Jobs
For more than twenty years, Europe has been producing thousands of megawatts of clean energy – and jobs – from their offshore wind resource. In the first quarter of 2013 alone, Europe installed 277 offshore wind turbines at 7 projects! In total, there are 58 offshore wind projects online in European waters, generating over 6 gigawatts (GW) and supporting 58,000 development and manufacturing jobs across the region. Europe has an aggressive offshore wind development goals which they project will create 191,000 offshore wind jobs by 2020 and 318,000 offshore wind jobs by 2030!
Other countries around the world – including China, Japan, and South Korea – are rapidly mobilizing to develop their clean energy resources. While today’s announcement is a critical step forward, America has much work to do to fully realize the clean energy and job generation potential of American offshore wind power.
So What’s Next?
How can we keep this progress going in the months and years ahead? Securing a lease is critical, but leases are only one piece of the puzzle. To guarantee that offshore wind projects will be built in these lease areas, we need Governors, state legislatures, and Congress to continue demonstrating America’s commitment to clean energy, both in individual power contracts and more broadly through tax incentives – particularly an investment tax credit – and other policies to advance this critical new clean energy source.
May the message of today’s auction ring clear with leaders nationwide: America is ready for offshore wind power and the many benefits it will bring to our environment and economy. Now let’s make it happen!