(Updates with comments from Interior Secretary in third paragraph.)
Feb. 2 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Interior Department plans to auction this year leases for sites where developers can build wind farms in the waters off four eastern states after completing environmental reviews of the region.
There will be “no significant environmental and socioeconomic impacts” from building turbines in “wind energy areas” off Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and New Jersey, the agency said today in a statement.
This eliminates work for developers proposing offshore wind farms, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said at a press conference in Baltimore. There are no turbines in U.S. waters, something President Barack Obama is seeking to change with the “all-out, all-of-the-above” energy strategy he described in his State of the Union address Jan. 24.
“No developer should have to wait nine or 10 years to get a lease,” Salazar said. “Our goal is to hold auctions and issue leases by the end of 2012.”
Offshore wind power has taken off in other regions, especially Europe, and the Interior Department’s efforts will help its adoption in the U.S., said Catherine Bowes, senior policy representative for the National Wildlife Federation.
The White House “has hit the accelerator in developing our offshore wind energy resources off the Mid-Atlantic coast,” she said in a statement.
“This is huge progress in such a short amount of time,” Justin Allegro, manager of the National Wildlife Federation’s renewable energy and wildlife program in Washington, said in an interview. “In the next year-and-a-half, actions from this decision will jump start development and not significantly impact wildlife.”
Global offshore wind capacity is expected to reach 20 gigawatts in 2015, with 658 megawatts in the U.S., according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance.
--Editors: Will Wade, Jasmina Kelemen
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