US Atlantic wind a 'gold mine'

Leaders in eastern US states have reached a critical moment to seize the economic and environmental opportunities presented by a “gold mine” of wind energy resource off the Atlantic coast, according to a new National Wildlife Federation (NWF) report.

"American offshore wind power is finally within reach," says Catherine Bowes, senior manager for climate and energy at NWF.

Key findings from the 24-page report, Catching the Wind: state actions needed to seize the golden opportunity of Atlantic offshore wind power:

- Offshore wind is strong and consistent, and can supply massive amounts of pollution-free power during times of peak demand.

- Offshore areas designated by the federal government could power more than five million average American households – about 16GW.

- Offshore wind could save millions of dollars as part of diverse energy portfolio.

-The emerging sector will spur creation of good-paying jobs.

- Offshore wind development can occur in an environmentally responsible manner that protects coastal and marine wildlife.

- Massachusetts and Rhode Island are “clearly leading” all states in offshore wind development, with Maryland having made “major progress".

- Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Virginia have taken key steps forward and “initial progress has been achieved in terms of proposed projects, finalized and/or leased federal Wind Energy Areas, and key studies completed.”

- Georgia, Maine, North Carolina and South Carolina have offshore wind research and preliminary planning activities underway.

Energy costs in New England are among the highest in the continental US, as the region must import fossil fuels from distant sources. Coal remains a key part of the energy mix in southeastern states that lack good onshore wind resource.

NWF and 41 co-sponsors of the report that include clean energy conservation and clean energy groups called on political leaders along the seaboard to set a “bold goal” for offshore wind in each of their state’s energy plans.

They also ask for policies that ensure a competitive market for offshore wind power such as support for key federal incentives and those that reduce air and carbon pollution.

The political leadership can also advance critical contracts for offshore wind projects such as power purchase agreements and rate recovery proposals, and pursue regional procurement opportunities, they add.

State officials can also ensure an efficient and environmentally responsible leasing process by working closely with the federal government, and key experts and stakeholders.

Lastly, they urge states to invest in key research, initiatives and infrastructure helpful for advancing offshore wind development.