U.S. Department of Interior announced its "Smart from the Start" offshore wind energy initiative has cleared an environmental review and is moving forward.
Launched in November 2011, Smart from the Start is a coordinated federal and state initiative to speed the siting, leasing and construction of new offshore wind projects. In order to simplify the leasing process, the initiative had to first, identify which areas off the Atlantic Coast are "Wind Energy Areas" and second, to confirm that developing wind in those areas is not going to harm either the environment or the economics of the local communities.
On Thursday, the DOI said its Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's (BOEM) National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) assessment found issuing leases in the designated Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) of the mid-Atlantic Coast would cause no "significant environmental and socioeconomic impacts."
With the assessment in hand BOEM published Calls For Information and Nominations for Maryland and Virginia to solicit lease nominations and also rolled out a "first-of-its-kind lease form that will help streamline the issuance of renewable energy leases on the OCS."
This news marks significant strides towards the development of offshore wind in the United States. As the Obama Administration has identified -- streamling the process and minimizing the red-tape is a very important step to realizing quicker implementation of renewable energy generation.
The Smart from the Start initiative could help companies like Cape Wind Associates avoid a extremely lengthy permitting process. In April 2011, ten years after submitting a proposal to build an offshore wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Cape Wind was granted the final approval to begin construction by BOEM.
The initiative may also spur interest not only from developers of offshore wind but also investors. This could result in better fates then the one suffered by offshore wind developer Bluewater Wind whose parent company, NRG Energy Inc., halted operations after the Bluewater failed to find investment partners for its proposed Mid-Atlantic Wind Park off the coast Delaware.
Secretary Salazar says his Department is moving "full-steam" ahead so the U.S. can tap the incredible potential that offshore wind has to offer.
Image Credit: MDGovpics via Flickr
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