As the clock ticks down for Congress to extend vital incentives to invest in and produce wind power, Environment America joined with local and state officials and other key stakeholders to from up and down the Atlantic Coast to release a report highlighting key actions by local, state and federal officials that have provided a strong foundation for offshore wind energy off the Atlantic Coast. The report, The Turning Point for Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy: Time for Action to Create Jobs, Reduce Pollution, Protect Wildlife & Secure America’s Energy Future; by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), shows that state and federal regulators and lawmakers can build on this progress to unleash clean local energy and economic development by supporting critical policies to encourage investments in environmentally sensitive offshore wind.
“Up and down the Atlantic Coast, the building blocks are being put in place to usher in a bright future for offshore wind,” said Rob Sargent, Environment America’s energy program director. “But, harnessing this vast yet-to-be-tapped resource requires a strong and ongoing commitment. There is broad public support for shifting to pollution-free renewable energy. Local, state and federal officials, including Congress, need to step up and link arms to make the promise of offshore wind a reality.”
The Atlantic coast is an ideal location for offshore wind energy because of its high electricity demand and population density along the coast. Along the Atlantic coast alone, reaching the Department of Energy’s (DOE) goal of 54 gigawatts of offshore wind power would reduce carbon pollution by the equivalent of taking roughly 18 million cars off the road. Meeting this benchmark would also generate $200 billion in new economic activity while creating more than 43,000 permanent, high-paying jobs in manufacturing, construction, engineering, operations, and maintenance, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
“America’s Atlantic coast has some of the best offshore wind energy resources in the world, the technology to harvest it is ready right now, and we have workers ready to do the job,” said Catherine Bowes, the National Wildlife Federation’s senior manager for new energy solutions and lead author of the report. “We need to take advantage of this golden opportunity to make our electricity supply cleaner, more wildlife-friendly, and more secure.”
“Like many states along the Atlantic, Massachusetts has no fossil fuel resources, forcing us to import almost all of our energy needs,” Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan said. “Developing offshore wind, an indigenous and emissions free energy source just off the Massachusetts coast, would not only offer a tremendous economic opportunity by creating thousands of new jobs for our citizens, offshore wind will also reduce greenhouse gas emissions and vastly improve the quality of the air we breathe.”
“Developing this renewable, sustainable energy will make America’s energy supply more secure and we have the Navy’s assurance that properly-placed turbines can go hand-in-hand with Virginia Beach’s military bases,” said Mayor William D. Sessoms, Jr. (R-Virginia Beach). “Offshore wind energy can preserve the traditions that have made Virginia’s coastal communities special while strengthening our economy, energy security, and environment for future generations.”
“Offshore wind energy can generate explosive job growth, from design to shipping to construction,” said Yvette Pena Lopes, deputy director of the BlueGreen Alliance. “Congress needs to set aside partisan bickering and send a clear signal that America is committed to clean energy by passing the Investment Tax Credit for offshore wind.”
“Offshore wind is a tremendous opportunity for us to reduce pollution. We need to pass a bill in 2013 that will set us up to build offshore wind turbines off our shores. It’s about being ready and having everything in place so we can act,” said Maryland State Senator Thomas Middleton, Chairman of the state Senate Finance Committee.
The Turning Point for Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy includes details on the key milestones each Atlantic Coast state and along with the wind potential and the economic benefits. Among the highlights of the report:
- Offshore wind energy will be an economic powerhouse for America. Harnessing the 52 gigawatts of already-identified available Atlantic offshore wind energy – just 4 percent of the estimated generation potential of this massive resource – could generate $200 billion in economic activity, create 300,000 jobs, and sustain power for about 14 million homes. (Europe already produces enough energy from offshore wind right now to power 4 million homes.)
- America is closer than ever to bringing offshore wind energy ashore. Efforts are underway in 10 Atlantic Coast states, with over 2,000 square nautical miles of federal waters already designated for wind energy development off of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. Environmental reviews finding no significant impacts have been completed, and leases are expected to be issued for some of these areas by the end of the year.
- Despite this progress, leadership is urgently needed at both the state and federal level to ensure offshore wind energy becomes a reality in America:
- President Obama should set a clear national goal for offshore wind energy development, and each Atlantic state governor should also a set goal for offshore wind development off their shores. These goals must be supported by policies that prioritize offshore wind energy and other efforts to secure buyers for this new source of reliable, clean energy.
- Congress needs to step up and provide much-needed tax incentives - such as the Investment Tax Credit, Production Tax Credit, and Advanced Energy Project Credit – to advance this new job-creating industry.
- Federal regulators must continue to move forward with an efficient, environmentally-responsible permitting process for offshore wind projects that grants leases to developers by the end of 2012. Leases must include strong safeguards for coastal and marine wildlife.
- Offshore wind energy can and must be developed in a wildlife-friendly manner. Not only do scientific studies show that properly locating turbines and requiring best management practices can minimize impacts on birds, bats, sea turtles and marine mammals, but transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy benefits all wildlife from cleaner air and water and cutting the carbon pollution that causes climate change.
In late July more than 200 environmental organizations, businesses, and local and state officials from up and down the Atlantic coast wrote a letter to Federal officials calling for bold action to accelerate the development of offshore wind.