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Rhode Island and Massachusetts sites leased for wind energy

Offshore wind power specialist Deepwater Wind New England LLC has won the US government’s lease sale for renewable energy in federal waters, gaining two leases for a wind energy area of 66,671 hectares offshore Rhode Island and Massachusetts for wind energy development.

The lease sale was part of the Obama administration’s plan to move the US economy toward domestic clean energy sources and cut carbon pollution. Secretary of the interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) director Tommy P Beaudreau held the US’s first competitive lease sale at the end of July.

When built, these areas could generate enough combined energy to power more than 1 million homes, the Interior Department said. “When you think about the enormous energy potential that Atlantic wind holds, this is a major milestone for our nation,” Jewell claimed.

The wind energy area leased by Deepwater is located 9.2 nautical miles south of the Rhode Island coastline and has the potential to support 3,395 megawatts of wind generation.

BOEM will hold its next competitive lease sale for offshore wind on 4 September, which will auction nearly 45,648 hectares offshore Virginia, and is expected to announce additional auctions for wind energy areas offshore Massachusetts, Maryland and New Jersey later in 2013 and in 2014.

The auctions follow the drawing up of a strategy to accelerate the development of offshore wind resources, unveiled in February 2011. As part of a “Smart from the Start” programme for expediting commercial-scale wind energy on the federal Outer Continental Shelf, the governement identified wind energy areas suitable for commercial development with less impact to the environment and other important uses. 

The Department of the Interior plans to redouble efforts on the renewable energy program by approving an additional 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy production on public lands and waters by 2020.

Since 2009, it has approved 46 wind, solar and geothermal utility-scale projects on public lands, including associated transmission corridors and infrastructure to connect to established power grids. When built, these projects could provide more than 12,700 megawatts — enough energy to power more than 4.4 million homes, it said.

At the same time, under the administration’s “all-of-the-above” energy strategy, domestic oil and gas production has grown each year President Obama has been in office, with domestic oil production currently higher than any time in two decades. Natural gas production also is at its highest level ever, and renewable electricity generation from wind, solar and geothermal sources having doubled, the department said. Combined with recent declines in oil consumption, foreign oil imports now account for less than 40 percent of the oil consumed in America – the lowest level since 1988.

“Each of these renewable energy lease sales are significant steps forward in the president’s all-of-the-above energy strategy and call for action on climate change,” Beaudreau added. “Harnessing the enormous potential of offshore wind will create jobs, increase our energy security and provide abundant sources of clean renewable power.”

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Energy efficiency  •  Energy infrastructure  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Wind power