U.S. Interior Secretary announces progress in nation’s first offshore wind farms

On July 2, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior, Ken Salazar, announced that two renewable energy projects – wind farms based in Wyoming and off the coast of Massachusetts – had passed their preliminary environmental impact reviews and, pending public comment and final review procedures, are on their way to the construction phase.

The two initiatives, while not without their share of controversy, would dramatically alter the renewable energy landscape in America. The Wyoming project is estimated to be capable of producing up to 3,000 megawatts of power, a measurement that would rank it among the largest developments of its kind in the world. The Chokecherry and Sierra Madre Wind Farm, proposed to be built in Carbon County, will operate approximately 1,000 turbines and have the operational capacity to power 1 million homes.

"Wyoming has incredible wind resources and this proposed wind energy project has potential to generate jobs and bring a record amount of clean power to market throughout the West," Mike Pool, acting director of the Bureau of Land Management, said in the department's press release.

The proposed Rhode Island/Massachuetts Wind Energy Area (WEA), a 164,750 acre plot of water centered in the region off the coasts of Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard between the two states, also passed the initial regulatory muster. Despite fierce criticism from environmentalists, including the possible danger posed to sea birds flying near the development, the program is serving as a bellwether for future offshore energy projects.

The origins of these wind energy efforts trace back to November 2011, when Secretary Salazar announced the "Smart from the Start" initiative, which aimed to identify other WEAs for public usage as part of the Obama administration's bid to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil consumption.

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