Speech: AWEA Offshore Wind Conference Remarks

Last edited 09/05/2019

Ken Salazar

Baltimore, Maryland

It's great to be here with you in Baltimore. We did this last year in Atlantic City and the year before that in Chicago. I'm glad to be back. I see a lot familiar faces in the audience.

Like AWEA's fearless CEO, Denise Bode and President of the Offshore Wind Development Coalition Jim Lanard. Thank you for having me – and thank you for your work in achieving America's new energy frontier.

And Governor Martin O'Malley. Thank you for your tireless efforts to advance offshore wind and your exceptional leadership on Maryland's conservation agenda. You've been a great partner.

And I know that there are some of my top employees in the audience who work on offshore wind – folks from the newly-established Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. A few years ago, I elevated the Renewable Energy Program at the Bureau to reflect its priority status for the Department and for President Obama. The office now reports directly to the Office of the Director. Less than five years ago this office had 5 people working in it - and now there are more than 25 on board working full-time to make offshore wind a reality.


If you read the news today, you might be inclined to think that our nation's clean energy future is bleak.

The collapse of Solyndra has captured the attention of the media, who ask questions like: Is there hope for renewable energy? Can any company make it?

Well, to paraphrase Mark Twain, I am here to tell you that reports of our nation's flagging commitment to clean energy are greatly exaggerated.

We know that now is NOT the time to turn our backs on clean energy jobs.

If our nation rolled over every time there was a bump in the road… every time the going got tough… would we have built the railroads from coast to coast?... or the interstates that connect our cities? Would we have put a man on the moon?

We as Americans face a clear choice today: We can listen to those in Congress who don't think we can lead the world in renewable energy technologies… or who say it's too risky or too difficult… They seem to think America doesn't have what it takes to innovate, create, and lead.

So we can sit on the sidelines and fall behind in the international race to build a clean energy economy…

Or, we can invest in our people… invest in our ideas… and invest in our companies that have the audacity to change the way our nation gets its energy.

As my colleague Steven Chu has said: “It's not enough for our country to invent clean energy technologies – we have to make them and use them too. Invented in America, made in America, and sold around the world – that's how we'll create good jobs and lead in the 21st century.”

If you read the news today, here's another fact you might miss about America's renewable energy economy: it is healthy, it is strong, and it is growing.

Wind, solar, and geothermal facilities are coming online across our nation, with parts and products built right here in America. Those projects are delivering power to our homes and to our businesses. And American workers are laying the plans, welding the steel, and turning the screws.

A few weeks ago, I went to the Nevada-California border where I visited two solar projects that Interior approved for construction on public lands. The construction sites were teeming with activity – one had nearly 1,000 workers on site that day.

These are two of 13 large solar projects that we have approved in the last 18 months. These are the first ever solar projects on public lands. When built, these 13 projects will produce nearly 5,000 megawatts of energy, or enough to power 1.5 million homes. They will have created more than 9,000 jobs in the process.

These are real projects, real people, and real jobs.

And in August, I was with Senator Susan Collins at the University of Maine where they have an entire research facility devoted to developing and testing infrastructure for deepwater offshore wind. Some of our nation's top scientists are there designing cutting-edge floating offshore wind turbines.

So it's happening – despite what some in Congress would have you believe. Our clean energy future is happening right now. We are making believers out of skeptics.

But, as those of you in this room well know, we have work to do.

The United States is one of the world leaders in installed, land-based wind energy capacity. Total U.S. wind installations stand at over 40,000 megawatts, representing 21% of global wind capacity. We should be proud of that achievement.

Yet we have zero offshore wind generating capacity to date. Zero.

This is true, despite the fact that offshore winds in the Atlantic could produce an estimated 1,000 gigawatts of energy. Imagine that – 1 million megawatts of power. That wind energy potential alone is greater than the entire nation's present electric generating capacity.

So, Interior is doing all we can to capture the power of the wind both offshore and onshore.

Here's what we're doing to move the ball forward on offshore:

First, we launched our ‘Smart from the Start' Offshore Wind Initiative to expedite the responsible development of wind on the Atlantic Coast. We're taking a focused approach to leasing and construction through a smarter permitting process. We're working to make it efficient and unburdened by unnecessary red tape.

One of the main components of this initiative is identifying priority areas up and down the Atlantic Coast appropriate for wind development.

By identifying Wind Energy Areas with the highest wind potential and fewest conflicts with competing uses, we can take a focused, commonsense approach to permitting - conducting the appropriate level of environmental review at the appropriate times, and getting projects permitted and built.

Second, to help us identify these Wind Energy Areas, we've established federal-state task forces in nine of the thirteen states along the Atlantic Coast. And we're working to have task forces in all thirteen. We are collaborating early and often with our federal, state, and tribal partners to identify areas that appear appropriate for development.

Through these task forces, and through a high-level Interagency Group led by my Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes, we're collecting as much data as we can about the areas.

We want to know – up front - what the potential user and resource issues are, so that we can reduce the time required for review, leasing and approval of offshore wind facilities. We think that data – such as marine mapping – will help both developers and the public make wise decisions.

In short, we want to streamline the process without cutting any corners on safety or environmental protection. We need to make sure that projects are built in the right way and in the right places.

And finally, we have teamed up with the Energy Department to develop the first ever interagency plan to harness offshore wind. The administration's National Offshore Wind Strategy sets an ambitious – but achievable – goal of deploying 10 gigawatts - that's 10,000 megawatts - of offshore wind generating capacity by 2020 – and 54 gigawatts by 2030.

Those levels would produce enough energy to power up to 15.2 million homes.

Along with the plan, DOE announced $50 million in funding opportunities for research and development. This funding is strategically targeted at developing technologies that can lower the relatively high cost of offshore wind energy. We need to overcome the roadblocks associated with installation, operations and grid connection.

So where do we stand?

We've signed a lease and approved a Construction and Operations Plan for Cape Wind, the first commercial wind development in federal offshore waters. This project could generate enough energy to power more than 200,000 homes in Massachusetts. We remain engaged and committed to getting this project over the finish line.

We have identified five Wind Energy Areas along the Atlantic – four in the Mid-Atlantic states of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia - and one area offshore Massachusetts and Rhode Island that I announced in August where we've already received strong interest from industry. We expect to identify more Wind Energy Areas in the coming months.

We have initiated Environmental Assessments to evaluate potential impacts of leasing and site assessment activities in those areas. The findings will determine whether a more detailed Environmental Impact Statement is needed, or whether we can begin offering leases.

We're nearing completion of the EA for the Mid-Atlantic and if the review finds no significant impact, we could be offering wind leases in the next few months.

From Texas to Oregon to up and down the Atlantic Coast, there's movement on offshore wind.

And we know that transmission is the key to unlocking the vast wind energy resources just off the Atlantic coast. We appreciate the proposal put forward by Google and Trans-Elect to develop the Atlantic Wind Connection, an offshore backbone transmission line that would run from southern Virginia up to northern New Jersey. The venture would be the first of its kind and offers great potential for smart siting of future offshore wind projects.

When it comes to onshore wind, we are also moving the ball forward.

After many high-level meetings with stakeholders from the wind industry and the conservation community, we are close to releasing our guidelines for land-based wind energy projects that will help ensure the responsible development of wind energy and implement effective measures to avoid and minimize impacts to wildlife and their habitats. Thank you for your contributions to this effort.

And we are working to review and make decisions on applications for wind energy projects on our public lands through our priority project initiative. One of these, for example, will be the biggest onshore wind project in the nation. Wyoming's proposed Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Energy Project would have 1,000 turbines and the potential to generate 2,500 megawatts of energy.

But the energy the wind facilities produce is no good unless there's a way to get it to market. So we're taking on transmission too.

Just last week, the Administration announced seven transmission projects across our nation that our nine-agency Rapid Response Team for Transmission will focus our efforts on to make sure that they get across the finish line. Together, the seven pilot projects represent more than 3,100 miles in transmission and potential to create more than 10,000 jobs. We're working to make the permitting process faster, simpler and more commonsense.

One of the seven pilot projects is the TransWest Express transmission line that would travel more than 700 miles from Wyoming to load centers in the Southwest and could connect many renewable energy projects to the grid - including the Wyoming Chokecherry and Sierra Madre wind energy project.

And BLM currently has more than 30 active applications for transmission lines pending before it. These applications represent more than 5,000 miles of transmission and could make a real difference in how our nation gets its energy.

But we can't do this alone. We need to keep the pressure on Congress to implement policy that makes for a long-term, sustainable wind industry. This includes an extension of the Investment Tax Credit and Production Tax Credit for wind energy, so there's financial certainty and so that we don't face the boom and bust that we saw in the 1970s with solar power.

And we need a Clean Energy Standard that will provide the signal investors need to move billions of dollars of capital off of the sidelines and into the clean energy economy. That's why, in his State of the Union address, President Obama proposed that by 2035, we will generate 80 percent of our electricity from a diverse set of clean energy sources – including onshore and offshore wind.

Meeting the President's target will position the United States as a global leader in developing and manufacturing cutting-edge clean energy technologies.

America's entrepreneurs and innovators have always been second to none.

Last week, we said goodbye to one of our best innovators: Steve Jobs, a man whose ideas revolutionized the way our nation interacts with technology and, really, with each other.

Steve looked at the Xerox computer - which was the size of a small refrigerator at the time – and said, ‘This technology should be available to all Americans. And I'm going to spend my life figuring out a way to make that happen.'

As we celebrate his life and contributions, we should also pause to recognize the scale of what you all are doing. You look at our nation's vast oceans, you know the need for a new source of energy, and you want to start an energy revolution. You imagine what offshore wind could mean for American families and businesses 10 years, 20 years, 30 years down the road.

It wasn't easy for Steve Jobs, and it won't be easy for you. But just like the personal computer helped unlock a little bit more of America's potential, so too will powering our economy with clean, renewable energy.

We must not be afraid of a challenge.

Now is the time to do what we've always done best: roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Thank you.

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