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United States

No clear process for offshore wind

Developers interested in tapping into America's offshore wind energy potential are wading into uncharted waters and need to "meet early and meet often" with anybody who could possibly be involved in the approvals process, says a New York consultant.

"It's never been done before in the US and that presents quite a few issues to deal with," says Jeffrey Freedman of Atmospheric Information Services, who has studied the regulatory and jurisdictional questions surrounding offshore wind development. "Regulatory authorities have never seen anything like this and therefore they are a little wary of such projects."

Area residents are also proving wary as plans to develop offshore wind facilities along the northeast coast of the US begin to surface. A pioneering proposal by Cape Wind Associates to build a 420 MW wind farm in Nantucket Sound is encountering stiff opposition from yachtsmen, fishermen and local government in the region.

The key to minimising the concerns of both regulatory authorities and citizen groups will be communication, Freedman told delegates to the American Wind Energy Association's June conference. "Make sure everybody knows what you plan to do and make sure everybody knows that everybody knows what's going on," he said. "And try to anticipate any potential impacts a project may have."

Offshore developers could also face significant hurdles on the regulatory side. Freedman presented delegates with a daunting list of federal, state and local statutes and reviews they could be subject to as they move forward with their proposals. "There is no clear process in place. At this point what happens is site specific," Freedman said.

There are no offshore wind farms in the US, but because areas with some of the greatest potential also lie close to large population centres, interest is growing. East of New York city, the Long Island Power Authority began meeting with wind power developers last month to discuss its interest in sponsoring a 100 MW project off the heavily populated island's southern coast. Several other developers have signalled plans to pursue offshore projects as well.

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