REPORT: Offshore Wind is Next Clean Energy Wave for Atlantic States

Media Contacts

State-by-State Analysis Tallies Up to 6 Gigawatts of Atlantic Offshore Wind Projects; 40 Groups Join Network to Speed Responsible Offshore Wind

Environment America Research & Policy Center

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Up and down the Atlantic coast, states and offshore wind developers are making significant progress in advancing offshore projects, according to a new report. The report finds up to six gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind projects have been proposed along the Atlantic coast – the equivalent of about five coal-fired power plants and enough to power about 1.5 million average U.S. homes. Based on government analysis, the Atlantic Ocean has significant offshore wind potential, with over 212 GW of wind resources in shallow waters where current technology is best suited.

“984 offshore wind turbines are spinning right now in Europe and not one in the Atlantic, said Curtis Fisher, Regional Executive Director, National Wildlife Federation, Northeast Regional Center. “The six gigawatts of proposed Atlantic offshore wind projects are a great start, but we need a coordinated and comprehensive effort of government and the market to bring these and other projects over the finish line in a way that values the precious Atlantic Ocean ecosystem and its fish and wildlife resources. This new industry holds great potential to create jobs, cut pollution, and reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels.”

“Harnessing the vast, untapped wind reserves off our coasts is a critical part of any national strategy to meet our nation’s energy needs while reducing the fossil fuel pollution that causes global warming,” said Rob Sargent, Energy Program Director for Environment America.  “We are encouraged by Obama Administration plans to accelerate the development of offshore wind by steering it to places with the least potential for environmental impact and by fostering better coordination between agencies.”

The report, “Offshore Wind in the Atlantic: Growing Momentum for Jobs, Energy Independence, Clean Air, and Wildlife Protection”, makes the following key findings:

  • Every state with significant offshore wind resources from Maine to Georgia hastaken steps forward on offshore wind. Northern states (Maine to Delaware) have the most advanced projects while southern states (Maryland to Georgia) are quickly mobilizing on a series of projects. See detailed chart and state profiles. 
  • The Atlantic’s shallow water characteristics combined with excellent wind speed make it an ideal location for offshore wind farms. 93 percent (42 out of the 45) of offshore wind projects worldwide are in shallow waters (zero to 30 meters deep). Close to half of the United States’ shallow water offshore wind is along the Atlantic coast.
  • While the most extensive European study concluded that offshore wind farms do not appear to have long-term or large-scale ecological impacts, major data gaps for the Atlantic Ocean still exist and site-specific impacts need to be evaluated. A coordinated, comprehensive, and well-funded effort is needed to address these gaps and improve the permitting process.

On a related note, Obama administration officials will announce this afternoon that they will not allow offshore oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico or off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts as part of the next five-year drilling plan.   “Anyone who loves our beaches, fishes in the ocean or depends on a healthy coastal economy can thank the Obama administration for keeping our Atlantic and Pacific coasts free from dirty and dangerous oil drilling,” said Sargent. “Together with the Obama administration’s support for offshore wind, today’s announcement shows us that we can have healthy coasts and a sensible path towards clean energy.”

“Offshore wind development presents a tremendous job creation opportunity for America, stated Stewart Acuff, Chief of Staff at the Utility Union Workers of America AFL-CIO (UWUA). “In these difficult economic times, offshore wind is perhaps the most promising game in town to grow quality, high-paying jobs here at home. Our members stand ready and willing to take advantage of these new jobs and help lead America in this exciting new direction.”

The report was released along the coast today in conjunction with 40national and state partners including environmental, sportsmen, labor, and business organizations. These groups call on the federal government to take the following steps: 

  • Improve the offshore wind permitting process, 
  • Identify ideal, high priority sites with limited resource conflicts off of the Atlantic for quick and thorough permitting, 
  • Invest in and speed research of offshore wind technology and environmental impacts,
  • Coordinate planning with existing infrastructure and industries such as ports and fishing.

“The first three rules of avoiding impacts from wind development are location, location, location, said Mike Daulton, National Audubon Society’s Vice President of Government Relations. “This report shows the Atlantic coast has tremendous potential for clean energy in the responsible locations.”

“The release of this report marks the beginning of an unprecedentedregional network that supports appropriately-sited offshore wind farms in the Atlantic Ocean,” stated Catherine Bowes, Senior Policy Representative at National Wildlife Federation. “We have a great list of report cosponsors and look forward to growing the diversity and power of this network.”

For the full list of groups in the regional network, visit www.nwf.orgnews.