Congressional delegation rolls out offshore wind legislation

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Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons and Rep. John Carney (all D-Del.) introduced the Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act to provide  financial incentives for investment in offshore wind energy.

The  legislation would provide the offshore wind industry with enhanced stability by extending investment tax credits for the first 3,000 megawatts of offshore wind facilities placed into service, which is an estimate of 600 wind turbines.

The tax credit appears to be aimed at encouraging  a system of wind farms that are connected to one another by a power grid. Research has indicated  that if one area loses wind, the slack can be picked up by another.  Wind  are also more constant in offshore areas.

Efforts to move offshore wind projects forward have been hampered by a weak economy and a Congress unwilling  to go along with the tax breaks.

At present, Delaware’s Bluewater Wind offshore project remains largely abandoned. Many Delmarva Power customers were not happy with a previous deal that would have added a  charge to bills for the higher cost of wind power. Backers of offshore wind say the cost gap would lessen as the cost of other power sources goes up and the costs of wind remain stable or drop.

The opposition in Delaware has been led by the Caesar Rodney Institute, which has pushed for natural gas power plants.  Other opponents have expressed concerns about the effect of massive wind farms on bird populations.

Support for wind power may have grown of late after Superstorm Sandy struck New Jersey and New York. The storm led to growing concern about climate change and what some see as ties to global warming and  coal-fired power plants;

According to the release from the delegation,  the tax credits are vital  because of the longer lead time for the permitting and construction of offshore wind turbines, compared to onshore wind energy. Once awarded a tax credit, companies would have five years to install the offshore wind facility. Companies would not be able to receive other production or investment tax credits in addition to the offshore wind investment tax credit, according to a release from the delegation.

“Developing wind energy off our nation’s shores, especially in places like Delaware, is a critical part of boosting American energy independence and jump starting our clean energy economy,” said Carper. “Offshore wind is a true ‘win-win-win’ – it is cleaner for our environment, reduces our dependence on fossil fuels and foreign energy, and helps create jobs. If we want to harness this untapped, domestic energy source, providing investment tax incentives for our country’s first offshore wind projects is essential. Our bill would do just that.”

“Wind energy generated off our shores has the potential to strengthen domestic energy production, lower energy costs, and create jobs,”   Coons said. “This bill will help get turbines moving and, in conjunction with other policies, could help get the first generation of offshore wind projects providing clean, sustainable electricity to our communities.”

“As Congress works to responsibly reduce our deficit, we need to continue to maintain important investments in areas critical to economic growth, like renewable energy, manufacturing and job training programs,” said Carney. “Offshore wind power is a rapidly growing industry around the world. By incentivizing companies to develop offshore wind operations in the United States, we will reduce our dependency on foreign oil, while creating good-paying manufacturing jobs right here in Delaware. “

The legislation defines offshore facilities as any facility located in the inland navigable waters of the United States, including the Great Lakes, or in the coastal waters of the United States, including the territorial seas of the United States, the exclusive economic zone of United States, and the outer Continental Shelf of the United States.

Offshore wind offers enormous potential for producing clean domestic energy and helping create good jobs in areas located close to large population centers along the coasts, the release noted.

Because offshore wind blows faster and more uniformly at sea than the wind on land, it is a massive untapped resource for clean American power.  According to the University of Delaware, the winds off the Atlantic Coast have the potential of generating 330 Gigawatts of power., the release stated.

That is enough power to replace about 300 dirty, large coal plants and enough power to support nine states from Massachusetts to North Carolina. Additionally, building and operating these wind farms would create economic opportunities along our coasts.

Since 1991, 50 projects have gone into operation in European countries   since 1991. Based on experience in Europe,  offshore wind project can create up to 1,500 jobs in construction and operation and maintenance alone, the release noted.

A number of proposed offshore wind projects are moving through the development process, including projects in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey and Maine. Projects have also been discussed off the shores of Maryland and the Great Lakes states.

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