As part of the Obama administration’s Climate Action Plan, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Acting Director Walter Cruickshank today joined Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to announce more than 742,000 acres offshore 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. BOEM proposes to auction the Wind Energy Area as four leases.
“Massachusetts is leading the way toward building a clean and sustainable energy future that creates jobs, cuts carbon pollution and develops domestic clean energy resources,” Jewell said. “Thanks to Governor Patrick’s vision and leadership, the competitive lease sale in Massachusetts will reflect the extensive and productive input from a number of important stakeholders. This includes interests such as commercial fishing, shipping, cultural, historical, environmental, and local communities to minimize conflicts and bring clarity and certainty to potential wind energy developers.”
“Today’s announcement is a momentous occasion and the culmination of years of cooperation and hard work between the Commonwealth and federal officials,” Patrick said. “Through our investments and proactive planning, Massachusetts is poised to lead the charge in offshore wind energy development, with the economic and environmental benefits that come with it.”
The announcement builds on Interior’s work to stand up a sustainable offshore wind program through its 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 $5.4 million 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 Commonwealth of Massachusetts has been working hand in hand with BOEM to foster responsible commercial wind development in federal waters off Massachusetts,” said BOEM Acting Director Cruickshank. “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.”
To help inform BOEM’s decision-making, the Commonwealth 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.
The Commonwealth has additionally collected and presented spatial information and data for the Wind Energy Area regarding marine mammals, birds, ocean floor, geology, commercial ship traffic, and recreational boating to inform BOEM’s offshore wind planning process. In addition to BOEM’s stakeholder outreach, the Commonwealth has conducted dozens of public meetings and stakeholder sessions to discuss the Federal offshore wind leasing process.
Since taking office in 2007, Governor Patrick’s Administration has worked to position Massachusetts as a hub for the emerging U.S. offshore wind industry. These efforts also include the construction of the Marine Commerce Terminal in New Bedford, the first facility in the nation designed to support the construction, assembly, and deployment of offshore wind projects.
The Proposed Sale Notice announced today triggers a 60-day public comment period ending on August 18, 2014. 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. For more information on qualification requirements, please see The Proposed Sale Notice. Companies planning to submit a qualification package are strongly encouraged to submit as early as possible during the comment period to ensure adequate time for processing.
BOEM will host a public seminar during the comment period to describe the auction format, explain the auction rules, and demonstrate the auction process through meaningful examples. The time and place of the seminar will be announced by BOEM and related information will be published on BOEM’s website.
In addition to the Proposed Sale Notice, BOEM is publishing in the Federal Register a Notice of the Availability (NOA) of a Revised Environmental Assessment and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI). The FONSI states that BOEM has determined that no reasonably foreseeable significant impacts are expected to occur as a result of issuing wind energy leases and the approval of Site Assessment Plans in the Massachusetts Wind Energy Area. Before a decision regarding the construction of any proposed wind power facility, BOEM will conduct a comprehensive site-specific National Environmental Policy Act review, which will include additional opportunities for public comment.
— Source: U.S. Department of the Interior.