On February 7, 2011, the Department of Energy (“DOE”) and Department of the Interior (“Interior”) announced a joint strategic plan entitled the National Offshore Wind Strategy: Creating an Offshore Wind Industry in the United States in order to accelerate the deployment of offshore wind and decrease cost.  The new plan aims to deploy ten gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2020 and fifty-four gigawatts by 2030.  This new plan will fund $50.5 million in offshore wind projects and designate several high priority Wind Energy Areas.

The strategic plan will focus on accelerating the timeline for deploying offshore wind by focusing on resource planning, siting and permitting, and complementary infrastructure (which will encompass domestic manufacturing, supply chain, transmission, interconnection, installation, operations, and maintenance).  In order to reduce the cost of deployment, DOE will help with technology development to reduce capital spending, increase research and development to cut the cost of installations and maintenance, decrease financing costs, and invest more in turbine development.

The new strategic plan will divide the $50.5 million into three categories:

  1. Technology Development will solicit up to $25 million over the next five years to develop new wind turbine designs and hardware;
  2. Removing Market Barriers will cost up to $18 million over three years, and this category will include DOE studies and research to identify hurdles to the deployment of offshore wind; and
  3. Next-Generation Drivetrain will spend up to $7.5 million to fund the development of new designs for wind turbine drivetrains.

The Interior’s Secretary Ken Salazar announced the four Wind Energy Areas as part of the Interior’s ‘Smart from the Start’ plan.  The plan will allow the four mid-Atlanta areas on the Outer Continental Shelf of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia to receive an expedited process for environmental reviews, siting, and leasing.  The Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (“BOEMRE”) will prepare the initial environmental assessments, and if no impacts are found, BOEMRE may begin leasing in the four areas by the end of 2011.  NEPA reviews will still be conducted before construction may begin on any facilities, but BOEMRE is tasked with maintaining an expedited schedule.

A copy of the DOE press release on the new initiative which includes a full copy of the strategic plan is available here.