Monday, October 04, 2010

Offshore Wind: What's Taking So Long?

News Journal reporter Aaron Nathans has a rundown of the obstacles to erecting wind turbines off the east coast. It's a thorough review of the economic and regulatory challenges facing the industry:
To address the cost issue, the offshore wind industry, which meets this week in Atlantic City for its annual convention, is looking to Washington for help.

They're asking Congress to extend tax credits currently available and make them apply long-term. Recent year-to-year extensions provide little assurance to investors who can't depend on the tax credits being around five or 10 years out.

Wind industry officials also want Congress to enact legislation internalizing the full costs of fossil fuel-generated electricity by accounting for carbon emissions that contribute to global warming. So far, the leading proposal -- for a system capping carbon emissions and establishing a market for trading carbon emission credits -- has failed to overcome opposition contending it would raise electricity costs and contribute to unemployment in coal-producing areas.
I don't think we will see much progress on energy policy in Congress in the next term, though we hopefully will see the tax credit extended. As for those who complain that renewable energy can't work without subsidies, it's worth remembering that the fossil fuel industry has been gifted with far more government support than "traditional" renewable sources like wind or solar energy.

While Congress may be deadlocked for the next two years, regulators aren't moving that much faster:
All drilling projects three miles or more out in the Atlantic will be subject to lengthy reviews by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement. Developers estimate it could take 7 to 9 years to get a permit -- two years longer than the average now for an oil-drilling platform. Approval for wind farm construction requires 10 federal permits, seven state ones and numerous local approvals.
A reliable government program for support of offshore wind will be essential for developing the supply chain, which will be a multi-billion dollar business. Delaware would like to capture as much of that as possible. But developing the business opportunities will depend on decisions that happen in Washington and up and down the east coast.

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