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US wind shifts up a gear

While the debate over offshore oil drilling in the United States rages, the federal government is looking to lease large swathes of its continental shelf to wind turbine operators.

Competition is hotting up to develop wind projects on the shelf, which is currently covered by an oil-drilling ban that has become a contentious issue in the race for the White House.


The federal programme is the start of a push to develop offshore wind energy in the U.S. The country often is dubbed by renewable-energy experts as “the Saudi Arabia of wind” because of its vast, windy expanses, particularly in the Western plains.

The offshore-wind race is centered on the Northeast. In June, an electricity producer and a wind-energy developer in Delaware signed a contract for a project of some 67 turbines to be built about 11.5 miles off the state’s coast. Over the next two months, Rhode Island and New Jersey are expected to choose wind-energy developers to work with as the states try to put together offshore projects. And New York City officials are talking with wind-power developers about erecting turbines on a massive tract of the Atlantic Ocean about 25 miles from Manhattan

Wind power is booming in the U.S. because of rising fossil-fuel prices, federal renewable-energy tax breaks and mounting opposition to new coal-fired power plants that emit greenhouse gases. Last year, 35 per cent of the electricity-generation capacity added in the U.S. was from wind — a percentage second only to natural gas, according to the American Wind Energy Association, a trade group.

However, wind accounts for only about one per cent of total electricity generated in the U.S. And so far, all the wind power in the U.S. is produced onshore. The states that crank out the most -Texas, followed by California – boast vast stretches where the wind blows hard and where there is enough land to install hundreds of turbines to catch it.