• Salazar announces ocean zoning effort

    By Patrick Cassidy | Published: November 23, 2010

    The federal government has announced that within the next 60 days it will designate areas off the Atlantic coast that are suitable for wind energy projects. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar made the announcement today at Fort McHenry National Monument in Baltimore, calling the expedited process for siting wind turbines off the coast a “new chapter” in the development of the country’s offshore wind industry. There is potential for 1,000 gigawatts of wind energy off the Atlantic coastline, Salazar said.

    Salazar specifically referred to lessons learned from the process surrounding the proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm and 3,800 megawatts of solar energy developed in the southwest of the country. The new “Smart from the Start” program appears to be the federal government’s long-awaited stab at ocean zoning, which Cape Wind’s opponents have said would have eliminated Nantucket Sound as a possible location for the project.

    Although Salazar misspoke in saying Cape Wind would power 200 homes – the project is expected to power something akin to a thousand times that amount – he alluded to the nearly decade long review of the project as unacceptable.

    With the newly designated Wind Energy Areas developers can be steered to locations where there are fewer conflicts with competing uses, Salazar said. Wind energy leases based on the newly designated areas could be issued as soon as 2011 or 2012, he said.

    Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Delaware’s senators Thomas Carper and Christopher Coons praised the action.

    “The battle for a cleaner, greener energy future is not going to take a couple of days,” O’Malley said, following one of several references to the Battle of Baltimore where Fort McHenry’s defense prompted the writing of the Star Spangled Banner. “Maryland stands with you to harness this tremendous offshore resource.”

    “We’re pretty sure 200 years ago the wind was blowing off the Maryland coast,” said U.S. Rep. John Sarbanes, a democrat from the district that hosts Fort McHenry. The lines of the Star Spangled Banner about the American flag waving prove it, he said.

    The legislators also pointed out the need for consistent tax regulations so that wind energy developers can move forward with their plans. Cape Wind is currently expected to take advantage of tax credits to make the project financially feasible. Those credits are typically reinstated each year only after they expire, leaving developers with a level of uncertainty as they pursue funding. A cash grant in lieu of a tax credit that Cape Wind had initially anticipated taking advantage of is expected to expire a the end of the year.

    “The investment community needs speed and reliability,” Coons said.

    Following the two-month designation period the federal government will work with partners for six months to collect as much information as possible on the areas that are designated to make sure they are suitable for wind energy projects, said Deputy Secretary David Hayes.

    For more information on the announcement click here.

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