US to sell wind energy leases off 3 states

The federal government plans to sell leases for wind farms off the coasts of Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Virginia, marking the first time it has sold competitive leases for wind energy on the outer continental shelf, officials said Friday.

The leases for the two areas, which total more than 430 square miles, will be sold next year, the Department of Interior and its Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said.

‘‘Wind energy along the Atlantic holds enormous potential, and today we are moving closer to tapping into this massive domestic energy resource to create jobs, increase our energy security and strengthen our nation’s competitiveness in this new energy frontier,’’ Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a written statement.

The announcement was hailed by conservation group Oceana, which called it a major step in developing domestic clean energy.

‘‘We’re getting a step closer to seeing real turbines out there in the water,’’ Nancy Sopko, the group’s ocean advocate, said. ‘‘The more progress is made, it sends that signal out to the rest of the world that the US is serious about developing wind energy here.’’

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