The Obama administration is making another bid to speed up the process of adding more offshore wind capacity in the United States. In all, $50.5 million will be made available for projects that support offshore wind energy development in what are deemed “high-priority” areas in New Jersey, Delaware and the mid-Atlantic.
But the plan from Secretary of Energy Steven Chu also comes with huge potential for wind projects in other states. Chu pointed out that almost 78 percent of U.S. electricity demand comes from 28 coastal states. Nationwide, the administration is setting lofty goals to increase the amount of wind we use collectively from 10 gigawatts in 2020 to 54 gigawatts by 2030.
This plan to increase the country's wind energy portfolio is being met with high praise from some members of Congress — and predictable resistance from others. First for the praise, which came from Rep. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee. “By prioritizing deployment along with design, the Obama administration recognizes that the energy race of the 21st century won’t just be about innovation, it will be about installation,” wrote Markey.
As for resistance, that came from Washington state’s Republican Rep. Doc. Hastings. The current chair of the House Natural Resources Committee decided to use the offshore wind announcement to tout his feelings about offshore oil drilling. Somehow, Hastings turned a wind announcement into a forum for his usual talking points. “With gas prices steadily rising, the administration must stop imposing regulations that lock up valuable American energy resources that are necessary to create jobs, generate new federal and state revenue and decrease our reliance on energy from hostile, unstable foreign countries.” This was an interesting take on the subject from Hastings, who seemed to forget that our wind capacity is unrelated to the Middle East and will add domestic jobs.
As for that $50.5 million plan, according to Industrial Fuels and Power, the plan calls “$7.5 million for the development of new designs for drive trains, a major source of maintenance issues, $25 million over five years to help develop wind turbine design tools and hardware, and $18 million to aid in the removal of market barriers through analysis of the electricity market and transmission planning regimes.”
In all, this could be a big step for the advancement of wind power in the United States. As for advancing cooperation between Republicans and Democrats on energy policy, this plan seems unlikely to accomplish that goal.