October 8, 2010

Don't shelve the "continental shelf"

Lots of us mention the "outer continental shelf" as a great location for wind turbines so casually that our friends might think we really know a lot about the topic. Experts in the field refer to it as "OCS."  I realized I was not so sure just how far it extended. So some Googling was in order.

Wow. Check out this website for a rather impressive map that shows just how extensive it is. The OCS begins 3-9 nautical miles from shore (depending on the state) and extends 200 nautical miles outward, or farther if the continental shelf extends beyond 200 nautical miles. That, my friends, is a lot of territory waiting for wind turbines.

Only a few offshore wind farms have gotten the necessary permits at this point--in Massachusetts off Cape Cod. Denmark and the U.K. are way ahead of the U.S.

There's even an Outer Continenal Shelf Lands Act--from 1953! Since its original enactment in 1953, the OCSLA has been amended several times, most recently as a result of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Amendments have included, for example, the establishment of an oil spill liability fund and the distribution of a portion of the receipts from the leasing of mineral resources of the OCS to coastal states. Click here to learn more about it.

Drawing the boundary at 3 miles (or whatever) offshore might be a challenge since this is a moving target. As shorelines erode, that boundary will move closer to land. But I assume the OCS experts have considered that.