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Blog Tags: Offshore Wind

CEO Note: Maryland Takes the Lead

Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless

If you’re a Marylander like me, this is a time to be proud. The Old Line State has stepped forward, making ocean conservation a priority and providing an example that other states would be wise to follow.

First, Maryland became a leader in developing offshore wind energy by passing The Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013, which was signed into law by Governor Martin O’Malley this week. The measure will help spur the development of at least 200 megawatts of renewable energy off Maryland’s coast – enough to power about 200,000 homes.

While wind turbines already dot Europe’s coast, the United States has yet to construct a single offshore wind farm. Maryland’s legislation marks an important milestone on this country’s path to a clean ocean energy future.

This victory was made possible by the tireless advocacy of Oceana and a diverse coalition of environmental, faith, business and community groups, all of which recognized the need to transition to this clean and abundant form of energy, and away from fossil fuels. Special thanks to Chesapeake Climate Action Network, National Wildlife Federation, Maryland League of Conservation Voters, Maryland Sierra Club and Environment Maryland for helping to pressure lawmakers to take this first step towards a greener energy portfolio for the state.

Second, both the Maryland House and Senate passed a bill to prohibit the sale and trade of shark fins. Pending the signature of the Governor, Maryland will become the first state on the East Coast to adopt such a ban. Approximately 100 million sharks are killed each year, primarily to support the demand for shark fin soup. While shark finning is banned in the U.S, this brutal practice—which involves slicing the fins off a live shark and then dumping it back in the water where it is left to die—is still occurring around the world.  By stopping the shark fin trade in state, Maryland can help protect sharks worldwide.

So congratulations Maryland, but remember, there’s a lot of work still left to do to protect our oceans. As for the rest of the states, what are you waiting for?


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Maryland Wants Wind

Windy forecast for the Old Line State. Photo: wikimedia commons

Maryland Governor Martin O’ Malley is standing by his promise to promote offshore wind development by championing the introduction of the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013.

The bill, introduced on January 21st, would be the second law of its kind that promotes offshore wind through the use of offshore wind renewable energy credits (ORECs). The law will require utilities in the state to provide to their ratepayers a certain amount of power generated from offshore wind energy. If passed, this bill will jumpstart a nascent industry and create Maryland-based manufacturing and maritime jobs. It will help spur the development of at least 200 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind off Maryland’s coast, which is enough to power about 200,000 homes with clean energy. And that is just the start.


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CEO Note: Big Win for Wind

Oceana CEO Andy Sharpless

If you’ve been paying attention to news out of the nation’s capital, it would seem that there’s little to be encouraged about. But what you might not have heard is the genuinely good news that emerged when the dust settled on the so-called “fiscal cliff” deal just after the New Year. Thanks to tireless campaigning by Oceana, an unheralded bit of legislation, crucial to the future of the country’s clean renewable energy future, was passed by Congress.

On December 31st the Investment Tax Credit, or ITC, expired. The tax credit is essential to attracting investment in the country’s promising offshore wind industry. Had it not been renewed, it would have dealt a devastating blow to an industry that is just getting off its feet here in the United States (though it is well established overseas). While subsidies for the oil and gas industry are permanent features of the U.S. tax code, the future of the wind industry truly hung in the balance as Congress looked to forge an economic deal.

Thankfully, our elected representatives recognized the crippling consequences of inaction and included the ITC in the contentious deal to avert the fiscal cliff.

If we gave up on our burgeoning offshore wind industry, what exactly would we be giving up on? Well, an economic analysis prepared for the Department of Energy found that by 2030 the domestic offshore wind industry could create 200,000 jobs, bring in over $70 billion in annual investments and create 4,000 gigawatts of clean power, enough to power the entire United States four times over.

And wind energy is good for the ocean. While the Department of the Interior mulls a proposal to test for oil and gas in the Atlantic Ocean with seismic airguns that threaten tens of thousands of marine mammals, and as Shell continues to demonstrate the dangers of offshore drilling in ever more remote and hazardous locales, the need for developing our clean energy industry has never been clearer.

Thanks to Oceana, wind companies that had begun to scale back and even lay off workers in the face of fiscal and political uncertainty are hiring again. In the midst of a still sputtering economy, the renewal of the ITC means more manufacturing jobs and revitalized port industries.

But most importantly, it signals that the United States is serious about developing the untapped wealth of clean, renewable wind energy off its shores. Thanks to the work of our advocates and the wisdom of our representatives, a new wind blows in the country’s energy landscape.

Andy Sharpless is the CEO of Oceana


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Victory! Congress Extends Tax Credit for Offshore Wind

Coming soon to a coast near you. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Congress has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons this holiday season, but news out of the Capitol this week could not be better for the nation’s burgeoning offshore wind industry.

As part of the so-called ‘fiscal cliff’ deal, Congress voted to extend the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), a crucial financing tool for offshore wind that makes investment in the clean energy industry much more attractive.

The ITC technically expired at midnight on New Year’s Eve, and, if left expired, could have jeopardized a new industry with the potential to generate tens of thousands of jobs and enough electricity to power the country four times over.  Luckily, the tax credit was extended at the eleventh hour.

Oceana ocean advocate Nancy Sopko praised Congress’ decision to renew the ITC:

"We couldn’t be happier that the ITC - the most critical tax incentive for the offshore wind industry - has been extended as part of the ‘fiscal cliff’ deal.  The inclusion of the ITC provides invaluable certainty to the financial sector that the offshore wind industry is a viable job-creating industry in the U.S. and helps to jumpstart this domestic clean energy resource. We need to capitalize on this great momentum to complete the transition to clean and renewable energy sources, like offshore wind, to reduce our dependence on dirty fossil fuels, create long-term domestic jobs, combat climate change and take the lead on clean energy development in the world."

Nancy Sopko, Oceana advocate and Corry Westbrook, Oceana federal policy director, thank Congressman Pascrell (D-NJ) for his leadership on offshore wind.

This huge victory would not be possible without your support. By passing the ITC, the United States has signaled that it is serious about developing the untapped wealth of clean, renewable wind energy off its shores.


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DOE Gives $28 Million Boost to Offshore Wind

The Department of Energy wants wind ©Oceana

News yesterday that the Department of Energy had awarded $28 million to a range of innovative offshore wind projects around the country came as, dare we say it, a breath of fresh air?

In total, seven projects will be receiving $4 million each. These projects range from “icebreaking” turbines in Lake Erie to an array of six-megawatt floating deep-sea giants off of Coos Bay, Oregon, as well as turbines that employ cutting-edge foundation design off the coast of Virginia.

The investment hopefully signals that the country is ready to become a leader in offshore wind technology, and is serious about its commitment to an industry that is still in its infancy in the United States (though it’s well-established overseas).

Much of the attention in recent years has been focused on the opportunity of offshore wind in the Atlantic. But these latest projects, which dot both coasts, the Gulf of Mexico and even the Great Lakes, demonstrate the wide-ranging abundance of the country’s wind resources.

An economic analysis prepared for the Department of Energy found that by 2030 the domestic offshore wind industry could create 200,000 jobs, bring in over $70 billion in annual investments and create 4,000 gigawatts of clean power. That is enough to power the entire United States four times over. 


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Japan Plans to Build Floating Offshore Wind Farm

offshore wind turbine

© Oceana

The Fukushima nuclear disaster, sparked by the earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan last March, has led the Japanese government to embrace a safer energy source: offshore wind.

Japan seeks to expand its wind energy capacity and compete with European markets in the brand new field of floating offshore wind technology. The country plans to build a pilot floating wind farm with six 2-Megawatt turbines, and then scale up to 80 floating turbines off the Fukushima coast by 2020.

While offshore wind has begun to be used in Europe, to date, it has been dependent on shallow enough water to stabilize the foundation. There is currently an international race to develop floating offshore wind farms, which are the next big step in offshore wind energy as they will allow for offshore wind development even in deeper water.

Floating offshore wind designs are being field tested in the North Sea and Portugal. (Check out this video describing how one type of floating wind turbine is designed and deployed.)  Floating wind farms consist of large floating structures that support a spinning turbine, the base of which can be tethered to the ocean floor.

It uses a ballast system to transfer water between pillars to keep the platform stable even in very high seas. The floating farms are assembled on land and then can be towed out to sea to be placed in deeper water locations that have stronger and steadier winds. The ability to place offshore wind farms into deeper waters along with their lack of concrete bases and increased mobility reduces their environmental impact while increasing their production of clean energy.

Japan has responded to the Fukushima disaster in the way that the U.S. should respond to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill disaster – by aggressively pursuing safer, more environmentally friendly energy sources that will allow us to phase out the older and more dangerous ones.


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Ted Danson: A Return to Common Sense for Our Coasts

The eastern Gulf of Mexico, near St. Petersburg, FL. [Image via Wikimedia Commons]

Ted Danson is a member of Oceana's board of directors, and has been active in the fight against offshore drilling for decades. This guest post originally appeared on The Huffington Post.

I haven't heard news this good in a long time. The Obama administration's announcement to protect the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and both U.S. coasts from offshore drilling as part of the next five-year plan is a massive win for our oceans and every living thing that relies on them.

What's more, the administration said it would reconsider Shell's proposal to drill in the Arctic's Beaufort Sea, a sign that the president's commitment to science and preparedness were not just lip service.

The decision is a reversal of the plans President Obama announced in March -- before the largest environmental disaster in our nation's history began staining the Gulf of Mexico black.


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Blog Action Day: The (Offshore) Winds of Change

Today is Blog Action Day, and this year’s theme couldn’t be more relevant to us and all you fantastic ocean activists: water.

Water is also an especially poignant theme given the timing. Next Wednesday is the six-month anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The spill dominated the news -- and this blog -- for several months, and nobody’s sure what the long-term effects will be on gulf ecosystems.

And yet, just a few days ago, the Obama administration lifted the moratorium on deepwater oil drilling several weeks earlier than planned, and several months before the release of studies about the effects of the oil spill on the gulf.

As Oceana’s pollution campaign director Jackie Savitz said of the decision, “This is an incredibly disconcerting and unjustified move, that could open the door for the next great oil disaster. Oil spills are common. The question is not whether there will be another spill but when.”

But not all the news the past few months has been negative. Yes, the gulf has endured the worst environmental crisis in our nation’s history, but there are signs of hope. Momentum on offshore wind power is building, for one thing.


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FTW: Oceana’s Clean Energy Plan

We won!

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy has announced Oceana as the winner of its $10,000 contest to find a path to clean energy.

Our plan, “Vision 2020” includes pragmatic, specific recommendations for reducing oil consumption by homes and businesses, power plants, ships and light duty vehicles. The plan offers a menu of actions, with financing options, to achieve the goal of offsetting Gulf oil. 

If adopted in its entirety, the plan would result in a reduction of U.S. oil consumption by 26 percent by 2020 and 74 percent by 2035, saving billions of dollars, creating new jobs and giving us more time to avert the worst effects of climate change.

For more info, check out the specifics of Oceana’s plan and explore the podcast and presentation.

Thanks to everyone who voted for us!


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Ten Myths about the Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling

Photo by Kris Krug via Flickr

At yesterday’s TedxOilSpill, I spoke to the crowd about the questions I hear most from people who don’t see eye to eye with me on why the disaster in the Gulf is our call to action.

Here are my responses to the naysayers -- feel free to use these with any clean energy skeptic you come across.

1) Isn't the Deepwater drilling disaster just like an airplane crash? We don't shut down aviation when a plane crashes.

No. In an airplane crash, most of the victims are those who were on the airplane. In this case, most of the victims are the millions of people living in the Gulf. This is more like the guy who built a campfire in the dry season, against regulations, and burned down the national forest and all the towns and cities alongside it. That's why we have regulations against building campfires during the dry season: Not because every camper burns down his campsite, but because all we need is one. We have laws against dry season campfires, and we should have laws against ocean oil drilling.

2) There are 3600 drilling platforms in the gulf. Are you going to shut them all down?

We're not calling for a shutdown of the platforms, just of drilling. Once the wells are drilled, the risks go down. The pumping can continue, but the drilling has to stop.

3) So then isn't this just a deep-water problem? Can't we continue in the shallow water?

Ocean drilling in shallow water is also very risky. One of the top three oil drilling disasters of all time, Ixtoc 1, was in 160 feet of water. And last August, the Montara rig blow-out near Australia, which took 11 weeks to control, was in just 250 feet of water.


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