Some of the principal obstacles to the development of clean energy are not economic or technological, but regulatory. America’s government consists of myriad fiefdoms, divided by geography and administrative function, each presiding over a crazy quilt of rules that often reflect outdated historical circumstances. Regulatory reform is desperately needed, but it’s also one of the most boring topics in the universe, which perhaps explains why the issue gets so little attention.
So, anyway, good for Obama for issuing rules that will finally make it easier to develop offshore wind farms. Offshore wind has incredible potential in the United States, but projects are often hamstrung by the permitting process. Presently, energy developers have to deal with the Council on Environmental Quality, Fish and Wildlife Service, the coast guard, the EPA, NOAA, and a host of other agencies when seeking approval for an offshore wind farm.
Under the new set of regulations, developers can go to a simple web site, enter a driver’s license number and a credit card, and within 30 seconds receive approval for offshore wind farms up to 500 megawatts in size, as long as they promise not to site the turbines on top of any whales.
OK, I made up everything in that last paragraph. Permitting a new facility is still a long and complicated process (pdf), but it’s now one with clear rules. Wind developers are ecstatic:
> Jim Gordon, the president of Cape Wind, a company that has struggled for nearly a decade to build the nation’s first offshore wind farm in Nantucket Sound, said, “This is going to open up the whole industry.”
Now the administration just needs to start banging heads on rules surrounding the electrical grid, and we might start to get somewhere with this whole clean energy thing.