Offshore Wind Gets Major Boost. In an Earth Day speech at a wind turbine tower manufacturing plant, President Barack Obama announced that the Department of the Interior has finalized a long-awaited framework for renewable energy production on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The framework establishes a program to grant leases, easements, and rights-of-way for orderly, safe, and environmentally responsible renewable energy development activities, such as the siting and construction of off-shore wind farms, on the OCS.

“It is fitting that on Earth Day President Obama is taking this bold step toward opening America’s oceans and new energy frontier, so that we can wisely build a clean energy economy that will create millions of new jobs across the country,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said. “This new framework will enhance our energy security and create the foundation for a new offshore energy sector that will employ Americans developing clean and renewable energy.”

In addition to establishing a process for granting leases, easements, and rights-of-way for offshore renewable energy development, the new program also establishes methods for sharing revenues generated from OCS renewable energy projects with adjacent coastal States. Additionally the framework will enhance partnerships with Federal, state, and local agencies and tribal governments to assist in maximizing the economic and ecological benefits of OCS renewable energy development. The Final Framework has been submitted to the Federal Register, and is available online.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 granted the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) the authority to regulate renewable energy development on the OCS, but no action had been taken under that authority until today. Since taking office, Secretary Salazar has made it a priority to finalize the rules that will govern offshore renewable energy development, given the enormity of this clean, renewable energy source and its proximity to major population centers. A number of other countries already are tapping significant energy from offshore winds.

Wind Energy Continues Rapid Growth in US, but Still Has a Long Way to Go

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) says 25,369 MW worth of power is now generated in the United States from wind – nearly enough to electricity for 7 million households. In 2008 alone, over $17 billion was put into the economy from wind energy and 42% of all new power producing capability in the U.S. was from wind.

Within the United States, Texas now leads the nation with a total of more than 7 GW of installed capacity as the largest producer of wind power. If Texas was a country it would now rank as the sixth largest producer of wind power in the world. Iowa comes in second at around 2.8 GW of capacity and California, which used to lead the nation and once lead the world has fallen to third place behind Iowa with around 2.6 GW of capacity installed.

Construction Begins on New Texas Wind Farm

E.ON Climate & Renewables (EC&R) the renewable energy division of E.ON a large German power and gas company has started construction on its Paplote Creek wind farm. Once the farm is completed, by the end of the year, it will add 109 wind turbines producing 179.85 megawatts of power to the rapidly growing stock of Texas wind power generating capacity. This is enough power for almost 54,000 homes. Paplote Creek is located in San Patricio County, about 30 miles north of Corpus Christi. San Antonio’s CPS Energy, the nation’s largest municipally owned energy company has signed a 15-year power purchase agreement to buy a majority of the output from the Papalote Creek wind farm.

Floating Wind Farms

Principle Power, a technology startup located in Seattle, WA is focused on deep-water offshore wind energy. It has proposed building floating windmills to capture this energy in water that is too deep for traditional offshore wind platforms that rise from foundations on the sea floor. Energy developers in Europe already have planted more than two dozen wind farms in shallow offshore waters. But along most of the world’s coastlines, it gets too deep too fast to put a turbine tower on a solid foundation. Most of the world’s wind energy potential is offshore and the offshore areas along the world’s coastlines also have the advantage of being relatively close to the world’s major population centers.

Principle Power is proposing using existing deep water gas & oil floating (anchored) platform technology and employing it to build stable platforms to support large offshore wind turbines sited around 10 miles offshore in deep water and in high wind zones.

Offshore deep water wind is still seen as too expensive to compete in the current markets. Principle Power insists their electricity will be priced competitively with other sources of new renewable energy and are seeking to prove it. They recently signed a contract with Portugal’s biggest electric company to moor the world’s first floating wind farm in the east Atlantic. The project would start with a single demonstration platform launching in 2011.

© 2009, Chris de Morsella. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Chris de Morsella (146 Articles)

After a decade performing as a lead guitarist for rock bands, Chris de Morsella decided to return to the career his uncle mentored him in as a youth....Software Engineering. Since that time he has thrown himself into his work. He has designed a compound document publishing architecture for regulatory submissions capable of handling very large multi-document FDA regulatory drug approval submissions, for Liquent, a division of Thompson Publishing. At the Associated Press, Chris worked with senior editors at facilities around the world, to develop a solution for replacing existing editorial systems with an integrated international content management solution. He lead the design effort at Microsoft for a help system for mobile devices designed to provide contextual help for users. Chris also helped to develop the web assisted installer for LifeCam2.0, the software for Microsoft’s web cam and developed late breaking features for the product He also served with the Rhapsody client team to redesign and build a major new release of Real Networks Rhapsody client product. His most recent assignment has been Working with the Outlook Mobile Time Management team for the next release of Outlook Mobile for the SmartPhone. Chris' interests are in green building and architecture, smart grid, the cloud, geo-thermal energy, solar energy, smart growth, organic farming and permaculture. Follow Chris on Twitter.