As part of the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of deploying 30 GW of offshore wind energy capacity by 2030, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) recently announced the publication of its Gulf of Maine Call for Information and Nominations. This Call invites public comment on, and assesses interest in, possible commercial wind-energy development in areas offshore Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine.
This represents an early step in the commercial planning and leasing process, and the first required by BOEM regulations.
“BOEM is committed to transparent, inclusive, and data-driven processes, and public input is essential to helping us determine areas that may be suitable for offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine,” said BOEM Director Elizabeth Klein. “We are still early in the planning and leasing process, and we look forward to the multiple future opportunities for engagement.”
BOEM published the Commercial Leasing for Wind Power Development on the Gulf of Maine Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) — Call for Information and Nominations in the Federal Register on April 26, 2023, which initiated a 45-day public comment period. BOEM will accept nominations and comments through 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time on June 12, 2023.
After the public comment period closes, BOEM will review and analyze commercial nominations and public comments submitted in response to the Call. BOEM will also consider information from government and Tribal consultations and the Gulf of Maine Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force to further evaluate the appropriateness of the Call area for offshore wind-energy development.
“The feedback that we have received prior to this announcement has been extremely valuable in informing the process and understanding the unique dynamics that the Gulf of Maine presents,” said BOEM Project Coordinator Zach Jylkka. “The success of BOEM’s commercial leasing process hinges upon continued public input, and we are fortunate that many passionate and knowledgeable individuals and organizations are willing to share their experiences and expertise to help shape these important outcomes.”
In August 2022, the Department of the Interior announced a “Request for Interest” (RFI) to gauge whether commercial interest existed in obtaining wind-energy leases within an area in the Gulf of Maine comprising about 13.7 million acres.
BOEM worked collaboratively with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) to conduct a spatial analysis of the RFI area. This analysis, in combination with public comments on the RFI, led to the creation of a draft Call area. BOEM hosted a series of information exchanges on the draft Call area from January to February 2023 to get feedback from tribes, states, existing ocean users, and the general public. The final Call area reduces the RFI area to 9.8 million acres, a nearly 30 percent reduction.
In the final Call area, BOEM removed approximately 160,000 acres from future consideration to avoid Georges Bank. The Call area remains broad to provide flexibility to minimize conflicts with other uses. BOEM will use a powerful spatial analytical tool, called an ecosystem-wide suitability model, developed in partnership with NCCOS, to help identify where conflicts may exist and inform decisions regarding the most appropriate wind-energy areas to meet the states’ and Biden-Harris administration’s offshore renewable energy goals.
Through the information exchanges on the draft Call area, BOEM has identified four areas that BOEM specifically seeks public input on during this next phase of review, including: Lobster Management Area I, Platts Bank, Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan Restricted Areas, and Georges Bank (the immediately adjacent area along the southern boundary of the Call Area). This is not an exhaustive list; however, it represents the areas that were most commented on in the most recent public engagement. BOEM looks forward to receiving more information during the Call comment period regarding the suitability of these areas for potential renewable energy development.
BOEM aims to address and better understand any concerns from the public and encourages input and feedback to help inform its decision-making. Throughout the Gulf of Maine planning process for possible commercial leasing, there will be more opportunities for public input.
BOEM will host its third Gulf of Maine Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force meeting May 10-11, 2023, in Bangor, Maine.
The purpose of the meeting is to update Task Force members and the public on BOEM’s commercial and research offshore wind-energy planning activities and to discuss next steps for the Gulf of Maine. The public is encouraged to attend this meeting.
MORE INFO www.boem.gov/Gulf-of-Maine