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New wind blowing

Offshore wind is poised to explode:

* Earlier this year, Delaware became the first state to approve an offshore wind project, a 200-megawatt installation that beat out proposals for coal- and natural gas-fired plants.
* Rhode Island was next up, with plans for a facility that will supply 15% of the state’s electricity.
* New Jersey recently followed suit, granting rights for what could be a 346-megawatt facility.
* Texas, already tops in the U.S. for land-based wind energy, is pushing forward with a project on the Gulf Coast.
* North Carolina is starting to look at off-shore wind, and New York is likely to do likewise to meet its clean energy goals.

With the exception of the Texas project, all of these proposed installations will be built in an area known as the Mid-Atlantic Bight. This region is, to paraphrase Ron Burgundy, kind of a big deal.

> This coastal region running from Massachusetts to North Carolina contained up to 330,000 megawatts of average electrical capacity. This was, in other words, an amount of guaranteed, bankable power that was larger, in terms of energy equivalence, than the entire mid-Atlantic coast’s total energy demand — not just for electricity but for heating, for gasoline, for diesel and for natural gas. Indeed the wind off the mid-Atlantic represented a full third of the Department of Energy’s estimate of the total American offshore resource of 900,000 megawatts.

Savvier community relations explains some of the recent success offshore wind projects have had in overcoming NIMBY objections like those that scuttled the Cape Wind project in Massachusetts. It helps that these new projects are being built farther from land. And rising fossil fuel prices have also had a big impact.

Of course, fossil fuel prices are now dropping. The credit crunch is drying up capital for wind projects. And booming demand has led to a shortage of turbines. In short, the long-term trends are looking good. In the near term, wind may have a bumpy ride.

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