Some Massachusetts residents may be busy dealing with the Cape Wind Project off their own coast, but residents up and down the eastern seaboard could soon have some new neighbors in the form of offshore wind farms.

The U.S. government is planning to auction off an area encompassing 2,434 square miles in the Atlantic Ocean to developers of wind farms, opening up the continental shelf for the projects 10 miles offshore. The area encompasses a wide swath of the east coast, totaling 1.5 million acres of open ocean from Massachusetts to Virginia. The auction is scheduled to take place before year’s end and interested developers are doing what they can to avoid the angry divisions surrounding the Cape Wind Project, including studying wind farm effects on marine life and migratory birds. The American Wind and Wildlife Institute, a partnership between wildlife conservation groups and the wind industry, is working to make sure concerns from both sides are heeded.

“Cape Wind really helped focus attention on what we didn’t know and what we needed to know for offshore wind in order to estimate risk,” said Taber Allison, director of research at the American Wind and Wildlife Institute.

While the development and construction of any offshore wind turbines on the east coast is probably years away, the federal government is interested in pursuing the technology in order to meet the country’s energy needs. Wind farms in the Atlantic ocean could generate more than 1,000 GW of power per year, and we need to start now if we are to ever ween ourselves off fossil fuels and replace them with renewable energy sources.

“We’re not a new technology — the offshore wind industry has been operating in Europe since 1991,” said Jim Lanard, president of the Offshore Wind Development Coalition. “The U.S. is two decades behind. To catch up, we have to make big investments, just like nuclear, oil, gas and coal had to make big investments at the start.”

We definitely have a lot of catching up to do and while there is seemingly always some controversy surrounding offshore wind farms, this new plan could be just what the doctor ordered. At 10 miles off the coast, the turbines would be barely (if at all) visible to the naked eye and if the environmental studies pan out, I hope development starts sooner rather than later.

[via Bluefield Daily Telegraph ]

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