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December 13, 2012

DOE Offshore Wind Investments Are Great, But We Can Do More

Wind powerYesterday the Department of Energy (DOE) announced a major investment in offshore wind projects in the Northwest, Midwest, Gulf, and East Coast. The DOE will provide seven projects with an initial investment of $4 million, and may provide each project with $47 million over four years with the goal of deploying these projects for commercial operation by 2017.

These grants represent a major boost for the offshore wind industry and will help innovative, pioneering technologies become commercially viable. For example, one grant recipient, the Fisherman’s Atlantic City Windfarm, plans to install up to six direct-drive turbines in state waters off the coast of Atlantic City, New Jersey. The project will use an advanced bottom-mounted foundation design and innovative installation procedures to mitigate environmental impacts, and it will achieve commercial operation by 2015. All of the projects supported by these grants promote exciting new technologies – everything from floating wind turbines to foundations that use fewer materials.

While these DOE investments are a huge boost towards making innovative offshore wind technologies commercially operational in the next five years, they represent a small step towards the type of policy needed to help offshore wind energy reach its full potential. Offshore wind resources in the U.S. could provide 4,000 GW of clean, domestic energy. An offshore wind industry could support up to 200,000 jobs and spur over $70 billion in annual investments by 2030.

Onshore wind has a similar potential for growth. Onshore wind already makes up more than 50 GW of our generating capacity and supports 75,000 jobs. Wind power is on track to meet 20% of our generating capacity by 2030. 

To fully take advantage of our massive wind resources, stable, long-term federal policy is needed. The wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) and offshore wind Investment Tax Credit (ITC) are examples of such policies. These tax credits have helped the wind industry to grow, produce clean energy, and provide well-paying jobs for thousands of Americans. The credits are at risk of expiring, which would halt the wind industry’s growth and lead to the elimination of tens of thousands of jobs.

Congress can renew the PTC and ITC and put the wind industry on track to generate thousands of megawatts of clean energy. In fact, a bill doing just this has already passed the Senate Finance Committee, and is now stalled in the House.

The DOE's offshore wind grants are a small step towards meeting our wind energy potential. Renewing the PTC and ITC would be a huge step. TAKE ACTION: Tell Congress to do just that.

-- Amy Plovnick, Sierra Club Apprentice

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