US Will Target Four Sites For Offshore Wind Leases By 2012

WASHINGTON – Wind energy projects off the coasts of four U.S. states will be fast-tracked for approval, top Obama administration officials said this week.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced $50 million in funding for wind energy research and development and designated four areas off the shores of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia where wind power proposals will receive an expedited review.

“We can win the clean energy race,” Chu said Monday at a press conference.

U.S. regulators could offer leases for those areas “as early as the end of 2011 or early 2012,” the Departments of Interior and Energy said in a press release. The agencies said an early environmental review will quicken the approval process.

Meanwhile, the Energy Department said it is soliciting proposals for research into wind turbine design and factors that limit deployment of wind energy. The agency has set aside funding worth up to $50.5 million over the next five years.

Chu and Salazar made their announcement in Norfolk, Va., where area ports have been envisioned as a hub of wind energy manufacturing.

-By Ryan Tracy Copyright (c) 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.