WASHINGTON, Jan. 30 (UPI) -- Wind energy potential in the Atlantic holds promise as a new source of renewable energy and economic stimulus, the U.S. Interior Department secretary said.
With high bids totaling $448,000, the Interior Department said it doubled the total acreage available for wind energy development off the coast of Massachusetts in the fourth-ever auction of its kind.
"Offshore wind along the Atlantic holds great potential to help power our nation with renewable energy while adding jobs to the economy," Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said in a Thursday statement.
The U.S. government estimates the leased area, a combined 354,409 acres, could support around 2 gigawatts of commercial wind energy, enough to meet the annual electricity needs of 700,000 homes if fully developed.
Wind energy development up and down the New England coast has been met with opposition from preservationists worried about the potential threat to coastal habitats and aesthetics. An opposition campaign has evolved around the Cape Wind project planned for Nantucket Sound.
The Massachusetts lease follows a federal proposal for oil and natural gas development in Atlantic waters previously off limits to energy companies. U.S. ocean advocacy group Oceana said an offshore wind sector in the Atlantic Ocean could produce twice as many jobs and twice as much energy as offshore drilling.
There are no commercial offshore wind energy projects in operation in the United States.