An administration known for its coziness with traditional power industries has announced it is now setting its sights on a very unconventional source of energy.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne said in November 2007 that the 1.8 billion acres of the federal Outer Continental Shelf could become “a new frontier” for the nation’s energy resources. The federal government has begun entertaining bids for companies to place testing equipment in ocean waters to gather data on energy from wind, waves and ocean currents.

The Department of the Interior estimates 70 percent of the ocean’s wind power could be found in the mid-Atlantic states in waters that are less than 60 meters deep.

The prospect of wind turbines off the coast is certain to be controversial. It puts environmental groups in a bind. Groups such as the Sierra Club are strong supporters of renewable power because it has less impact on the environment. However, wind turbines are considered by some to be eyesores and lethal to birds.

Coastal states also may object to the federal government’s placing turbines offshore. It is unclear how much control they will have. Federal waters of the Outer Continental Shelf begin at three miles offshore and run to 200 nautical miles.  EC