H. JOSEF HEBERT, AP/StarTribune, April 22, 2009
Washington D.C. — The Interior Department issued long-awaited regulations on April 22, 2009 governing offshore renewable energy projects that would tap wind, ocean currents and waves to produce electricity.
The framework establishes how leases will be issued and sets in place revenue sharing with nearby coastal states that will receive 27.5% of the royalties that will be generated from the electricity production.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in an interview that applications are expected for dozens of proposed offshore wind projects, many off the north and central Atlantic in the coming months. “This will open the gates for them to move forward … It sets the rules of the road,” Salazer said.
Actual lease approvals will take longer.
Salazar said he expects the first electricity production from some of the offshore projects in two or three years, probably off the Atlantic Coast.
President Barack Obama, marking Earth Day during an appearances in Iowa, welcomed “the bold steps toward opening America’s oceans and new energy frontier.”
The offshore leasing rules for electricity production from wind, ocean currents and tidal waves had stalled for two years because of a jurisdictional dispute between the Interior Department and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission over responsibility for ocean current projects.
That disagreement was resolved earlier this month in a memorandum of understanding signed by Salazar and FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff.
The department’s Minerals Management Service will control offshore wind and solar projects and issue leases and easements for wave and ocean current energy development. The energy regulatory agency will issue licenses for building and operating wave and ocean current projects.
Salazar repeatedly has championed the development of offshore wind turbine-generated energy, especially off the central Atlantic Coast where the potential for wind as an electricity source is believe to be huge.
He said he has had numerous requests from governors and senators from Atlantic Coastal states to move forward with offshore wind development. State are interested in not only the close availability of wind-generated electricity for the populous Northeast, but also the potential for additional state revenue.
“We expect there will be significant revenue that will be generated,” Salazar said.
Under the framework nearby coastal states would receive 27.5% and the federal government the rest.
Currently there is a proposal for a wind farm off Nantucket Sound, Mass., known as Cape Wind, which has been under review separately from the regulation announced Wednesday. The Interior Department said no decision has been made on the Cape Wind project, but if it is approved it will be subject to the terms of the new rules.