Over 275 environmental groups and individuals have signed a letter urging President Obama and his administration to continue their strong support for offshore wind projects along the Atlantic Coast. The Obama Administration has so far awarded nine commercial leases in federal waters along the Atlantic Coast, and recently announced a new partnership between New York, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to help offshore wind further expand. The letter, spearheaded by Environment America, commends President Obama for these developments, and asks five things of the Administration to grow the offshore wind industry even more.

First, the letter calls for the President to set an ambitious goal for offshore wind development along the Atlantic Coast, to achieve the Department of Energy's 2015 Wind Vision report goal of 22 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2030. To reach this goal, the letter suggests the Administration strengthen collaboration between state governments to streamline the leasing process and that it increase federal incentives and support for research, development and deployment of offshore wind at the Departments of Energy and Interior. The letter also urges federal agencies to ensure offshore wind projects are sited, built and operated in a responsible manner that avoids/minimizes conflicts with marine life. Finally, Environment America and its cosignatories ask that key agencies agree to power purchase commitments with offshore wind companies to invigorate their markets.

Offshore wind is a massive energy source the Obama Administration seems committed to harness. Wind blows more powerfully and steadily over water than land, enabling offshore wind farms to generate a greater amount of consistent electricity than their onshore counterparts. It can also be sited far enough off coasts to be invisible to the naked eye, but still near major population centers with large energy needs. The Atlantic Coast alone is estimated to have 1,300 GW of offshore wind potential, which could power 85 million American homes and offset the equivalent of the carbon emissions of 100 million cars. The letter states, "Harnessing this massive domestic energy source must be a central component of America's strategy for cutting carbon pollution and moving the nation towards a clean energy economy."

Europe is leading the way, with more than 10 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind power currently operating. In the United States, there are no operational offshore wind farms: the first is expected to come online in summer 2016 at Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island. With the right policies, American can catch up with and even surpass Europe (see our September 28 briefing, Offshore Wind: Can the U.S. Catch Up with Europe? for more information).

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) was one of many organizations to sign the letter, which received broad support throughout the country, including from organizations in 19 different states as well as over 15 national and regional organizations. Environmental organizations, public health advocates, faith leaders, and elected officials were among those signing the letter to commend the Obama administration and exhort it to continue leading the offshore wind energy economy in the United States. The letter concludes that the signatories "stand ready to work with you to advance offshore wind power and help put America on a path to a truly clean energy future."


Author: Gabriela Zayas