The federal government has opted to move forward with wind energy development off the coast of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia, and Virginia’s Republican governor for one could not be happier. Sure, the party line might be that alternative energy is stupid — but when you have the federal government actively hunting down corporate investors for development in your state, it tends to make you pretty optimistic about new technologies.

The news was cheered by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and environmentalists who have long wanted the state to move in this direction.

“Cost-effective development of Virginia’s offshore wind resources is one important component of our overall effort to make Virginia ‘The Energy Capital of the East Coast,’ ” McDonnell said in a statement.

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The proposed offshore wind projects could produce enough energy to power millions of homes.

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This is a long way from happening — they still need to find investors and do environmental analyses for any proposal that comes through. But the government is taking steps to make the approval process more streamlined, not least because wind energy development has the potential to create tens of thousands of jobs.

Specifically, the Department of Interior approved “wind energy areas” off the coasts of these states where projects can move through the regulatory approval process more quickly, as well as model lease language and environmental review documents for the initial site assessment process, which is the first step in developing an offshore wind project.

The smart-from-the-start approach means taking into account the need to protect ocean ecosystems, wildlife and existing human uses in order to site things where they make the most sense. This is the kind of progress anticipated to increase as the administration implements the National Ocean Policy created by the President in 2010.

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