By Jordan Howard

U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Wednesday announced the federal government will move forward with plans to accept applications to develop wind facilities off the coast of Rhode Island.


By 2012, Salazar predicted, "the first offshore leas es for wind power in the federal waters off Rhode Island will in fact be signed by the United States of America and those developers of offshore wind."

The secretary boasted that the National Renewable Energy Lab has estimated Rhode Island's offshore wind farms could generate 1,000 gigawatts of electricity, enough to power most of the United States.

The project has support from the state's congressional delegation as well as from Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

"We're leading the way and it is appropriate that we are because these are the best waters for offshore wind …” said Chafee, citing Rhode Island’s shallow coastal waters and overall proximity to the ocean. “We also have the property here, the old navy base,” he added, “which can be a springboard off to all the industries that will grow.”

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) stated that jobs were the number one issue with the project.

"The framework the secretary has announced today will help us develop alternate energy, which is critical to our future. I feel very strongly that it will not only continue to help us develop Quonset Point but the whole state, and that development is measured in one very simple metric: more jobs for Rhode Islanders," he said.

"There is no single project that has a better hope for a significant change in unemployment," said Rhode Island's other senator, Sheldon Whitehouse (D).

Salazar's visit is part of a four-state tour of the Northeast.

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