- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Obama administration is boosting its drive to support renewable energy projects on both coasts, officials said Tuesday, including projects on public lands in the West and pushing for offshore wind energy sites in the Atlantic Ocean.

Interior Secretary Kenneth L. Salazar said his department has approved a 300-megawatt solar farm in Arizona and a 200-megawatt wind farm in Southern California. The wind farm includes 186 megawatts that would be produced on federal lands.

The projects, southwest of Phoenix and east of San Diego, are the 24th and 25th renewable-energy projects approved on public lands in the past two years, Mr. Salazar said, and demonstrate that the administration’s commitment to renewable energy is paying dividends.

“Together, these projects will produce the clean energy equivalent of nearly 18 coal-fired power plants, so what’s happening here is nothing short of a renewable-energy revolution,” Mr. Salazar said.

The Sonoran Solar Energy Project in Arizona, being developed by Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources, will generate enough electricity to power about 90,000 homes. The Tule Wind Power Project in California, developed by Iberdrola Renewables, the U.S. division of a Spanish energy company, will be able to power about 65,000 homes.

While onshore projects flourish, the administration’s efforts on offshore wind have struggled. Not a single megawatt of wind power is produced offshore.

Last year, Mr. Salazar approved the Cape Wind project in Massachusetts after years of federal review, clearing the way for work to begin on the nation’s first offshore wind farm.

On Tuesday, Mr. Salazar said officials are moving forward on a massive transmission project that would carry electricity produced at offshore wind farms from Virginia to New Jersey. Internet giant Google and others have pledged up to $5 billion for a network of transmission lines for offshore wind farms.

The department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is soliciting interest from developers and seeking public comments on the project, which would involve building high-voltage transmission lines along the Atlantic Coast. The line would enable up to 7,000 megawatts of wind turbine capacity to be delivered to the grid, Mr. Salazar said.

The announcement comes a week after New Jersey-based NRG Energy Inc. said it is putting on hold a project that would have created a wind farm off Delaware’s coast.

NRG said it pulled back because its Bluewater Wind subsidiary has been unable to find an investment partner. The proposed wind farm would have put 49 to 150 turbines about 13 miles off the Delaware coast.

The wind industry suffered another setback on Capitol Hill as Congress failed to extend a production tax credit and a similar cash grant program for renewable energy that supporters say have boosted the industry’s strong growth.

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