Renewable projects proceeding on public lands — and waters
Renewable energy development proceeds on public lands, according to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.
Dozens of renewable energy projects have been authorized and an auction for commercial wind development along the Atlantic coast is planned for later this year, Salazar said in his keynote address at the recent Offshore Wind Power USA Conference in Boston.
“We have made impressive gains, approving dozens of utility-scale solar, wind and geothermal projects in the West and transitioning from planning to commercial leasing for offshore wind,” Salazar said.
Salazar said he elevated renewable energy development to a departmental priority and Interior worked with industry, state, tribal and local partners to approve 34 projects on public lands in western states and to build an offshore regulatory framework in the Atlantic.
The 18 utility-scale solar facilities, nine geothermal plants and seven commercial wind farms will generate 10,400 megawatts of electricity when built, enough to power 3.4 million homes, Salazar said. Developers estimate the projects will support 13,000 construction and operations jobs.
At the same time, the Department of Interior has identified six wind energy areas along the Atlantic coast that contain the greatest wind potential and fewest conflicts with competing uses.
The department has already issued two non-competitive commercial wind leases — one off Massachusetts and another off Delaware. The department is moving forward with the first ever competitive lease sales for wind energy areas off Virginia, Rhode Island and Massachusetts that will offer a total of nearly 278,000 acres for development. The proposed areas could support more than 4,000 megawatts of wind generation — enough electricity to power 1.4 million homes.
Salazar also signed a lease and approved a construction and operations plan for the 130-turbine Cape Wind project, the first commercial wind development planned for federal offshore waters.
Calling 2013 a pivotal year for the industry, Salazar said the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will propose additional commercial lease sales this year for wind energy areas offshore New Jersey, Maryland and Massachusetts and is working to determine industry interest in three areas off North Carolina.
The BOEM also is processing a lease request from a company to develop floating wind turbines in federal waters off Maine.