US starts playing catch-up on offshore wind.

The Atlantic’s powerful bluster twirls thousands of wind turbines off the coast of Europe, sending gigawatts of renewable energy coursing into the power grid there.

Currently, there is not a single wind turbine generating even a watt of electricity in American waters as oil platforms represent the only offshore energy development in the US. But the race is on to change that, beginning with a landmark wind rights auction on Thursday, which aims to open a vast swath in the Atlantic off the Massachusetts coast for what could be the the first and largest offshore wind power project in the US.

Twelve wind energy companies will be vying Thursday to bid on the right to develop dense wind farms within 742,000 acres (300,277ha) of federally controlled open ocean beginning about 12 nautical miles (22km) off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard – the largest area off the Atlantic coast open to wind development. The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which also administers oil and gas leasing off the nation’s coastlines, expects that if those waters are fully developed with wind turbines, they could produce up to 5 gigawatts of electricity, enough to power 1.4 million homes.

The auction is a part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan, which calls for 20GW of renewable energy to be produced on public lands and federal waters by 2020 as the country tries to reduce its carbon footprint to combat climate change.

The US is far behind other parts of the world in developing offshore wind power. In Europe, for example, there are more than 2300 wind turbines spread across 73 wind farms operating in the waters off of 11 European countries, according to the European Wind Energy Association.
Bobby Magill |

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