Officials from the U.S. Department of Interior joined Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) June 17 to announce more than 742,000 acres off the shore of Massachusetts will be available for commercial wind energy leasing.
The proposed area is the largest in federal waters and will nearly double the federal offshore acreage available for commercial-scale wind energy projects.
The Massachusetts Wind Energy Area is located approximately 12 miles offshore Massachusetts – from its northern boundary, the area extends 33 nautical miles southward and has an east/west extent of approximately 47 nautical miles. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) proposes to auction the Wind Energy Area as four leases.
The announcement builds on Interior’s work to stand up a sustainable offshore wind program through its ‘Smart from the Start’ wind energy initiative for the Atlantic Coast.
To date, BOEM has awarded five commercial wind energy leases off the Atlantic coast: two non-competitive leases (Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound off Massachusetts and an area off Delaware) and three competitive leases (two offshore Massachusetts-Rhode Island and another offshore Virginia).
To date, competitive lease sales have generated about $5.4m in high bids for about 277,550 acres in federal waters. BOEM is expected to hold additional competitive auctions for Wind Energy Areas offshore Maryland and New Jersey later this year.
The Proposed Sale Notice announced today triggers a 60-day public comment period ending on Aug. 18. Comments received or postmarked by that date will be made available to the public and considered before the publication of the Final Sale Notice, which will announce the time and date of the lease sale.
The end of the comment period also serves as the deadline for any participating companies to submit their qualification packages. To be eligible to participate in the lease sale, each bidder must have been notified by BOEM that it is legally, technically and financially qualified by the time the Final Sale Notice is published.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said the planned competitive lease sale in Massachusetts has already gotten input from a wide variety of stakeholders “to minimize conflicts and bring clarity and certainty to potential wind energy developers.”
“Members of the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Task Force have been great partners in our planning process for the Wind Energy Area and the Proposed Sale Notice,” said BOEM Acting Director Cruickshank.
To help inform BOEM’s decision-making, the state established two working groups, a Fisheries Working Group on Offshore Renewable Energy to discuss issues and compatibility between commercial fishing activities and offshore commercial wind energy development, and a Habitat Working Group on Offshore Renewable Energy to discuss available ecosystem data and information within the area under consideration in order to identify any gaps.