SELC Backs Accelerated Development of Clean Energy Source
Massive Conservation Coalition Calls for Bold Action to Advance Offshore Wind Power
With critical federal tax incentives set to expire on December 31, over 230 faith, conservation, and public health organizations; small businesses; and elected officials joined Environment America, the National Wildlife Federation, Conservation Law Foundation, and Southern Environmental Law Center Wednesday in a letter supporting swift, bold action by the Obama administration to facilitate the development of offshore wind power.
A Huge Resource for the Southeast
Persistent pressure to drill for oil in the South Atlantic ignores a much more abundant energy source off the Eastern Seaboard: wind.
The winds off the southeast coast have the raw potential to meet much of our region’s power demands. They can also help our nation meet the twin objectives of reducing global warming pollution and increasing energy independence.
With its expertise in energy law and policy, as well as coast and wetlands protection, SELC is providing the leadership our region needs to tap into this huge resource. If done responsibly and in the right locations, offshore wind power promises to generate not only clean electricity, but also jobs and economic growth for our states.
A Power Source for Economic Growth
SELC is collaborating with national partners to champion state and federal policies that support offshore wind development. In 2012, we co-sponsored a report released by the National Wildlife Federation—The Turning Point for Atlantic Offshore Wind—that highlights the enormous potential for powering East Coast population centers with this energy source. It also highlights the potential for powering economic growth: tapping just a fraction of the wind power available off our Atlantic states could generate some 300,000 new jobs and more than $200 billion in new economic activity.
Fulfilling this potential will require government policies that level the playing field for offshore wind. These include continuation of the federal investment tax credit for offshore wind development, as well as state requirements that power companies meet a significant portion of electricity demand with clean and renewable energy resources—a.k.a. renewable portfolio standards.
First Steps for Virginia and North Carolina
The relatively shallow waters off the Virginia coast offer some of the best wind power sites in the country. With strong encouragement from SELC, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) auctioned a lease in 2013 for nearly 113,000 acres off the Virginia coast for wind energy projects. Located 23.5 nautical miles from land, the area is expected to generate enough electricity to power 700,000 homes.
Dominion Power, Virginia’s primary energy provider, won the lease, but unfortunately is proposing, over the next decade, to develop less than one percent of what’s possible on that swath of ocean. SELC is working not only to increase Dominion’s commitment to offshore wind energy, but also to ensure that prompt development of this clean energy resource is done with responsible environmental review.
On the heels of announcing the landmark lease sale off the Virginia coast, BOEM issued a call for proposals for developing three wind energy areas off North Carolina, totaling 1,441 square miles. Five companies have expressed interest, and North Carolina’s governor, Pat McCrory, has voiced his support for offshore wind development in his state. To advance this process, SELC submitted extensive information on marine wildlife that will help the agency make wise decisions about potential lease sales in these areas.
Harnessing the winds off Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina will take the nation a step closer to meeting the U.S. Department of Energy’s ambitious goal of bringing 10 gigawatts of offshore wind power online by 2020. That’s roughly the equivalent of a dozen big power plants.