Obama Fast-Tracks Offshore Wind Energy

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"Administration aims to lease wind farms off four Mid-Atlantic states by the year's end."

The Obama administration announced plans Monday to spend $50 million to speed the development of offshore wind farms, aiming to lease wind farms off four Mid-Atlantic states by the end of this year,

The Interior Department said it will expedite environmental reviews for four wind projects off the coasts of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. This spring, it expects to identify other wind energy areas off Massachusetts, Rhode Island and the South Atlantic region, notably North Carolina.

"This initiative will spur the type of innovation that will help us create new jobs, build a clean energy future and compete and win in the technologies of the 21st century," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in the announcement, which notes President Obama's goal of generating 80% of U.S. electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.

Wind advocates called for a streamlined process after it took eight years for the Cape Wind project off Cape Cod, Mass., to obtain a lease as the nation's first offshore wind farm.

Salazar said the wind farms identified Monday—all off major tourist destinations, including Atlantic City, N.J.; Ocean City, Md.; and Virginia Beach, Va.—would be 10 to 20 miles offshore.

The Department of Energy said it would spent up to $25M over five years to support the development of innovative wind turbines, up to $18 million over three years to study how to optimize the wind market and up to $7.5M over three years to fund more cost-effective turbine drive trains.

"Offshore wind power holds incredible potential to drive our energy and economic engine forward while reducing pollution," said Sean Garren, clean energy advocate for Environment America. "Nations around the world have already proven the effectiveness of this resource. If we do not move quickly, we risk falling behind."

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