Governor Patrick Joins Secretary Jewell to Announce Nation's Largest Offshore Wind Energy Area Available for Commercial Development

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742,000-acre zone off Massachusetts coast more than doubles federal offshore acreage available for utility-scale wind energy projects
Jun 18, 2014 –

Contact: Heather Nichols, Rachael Neff, Juli Hanscom – 617-725-4025; Jessica Kershaw (DOI) – 202-208-6416

Governor Deval Patrick today joined U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Acting Director Walter Cruickshank to announce that more than 742,000 acres off the shore of Massachusetts will be available for commercial wind energy leasing. The proposed area, located 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, is the largest in federal waters and will nearly double the federal offshore acreage available for commercial-scale wind energy projects.

“Today’s announcement is a momentous occasion and the culmination of years of cooperation and hard work between the Commonwealth and federal officials,” said Governor Patrick. “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.”

“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,” said Secretary Jewell. “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, including the commercial fishing and shipping industries. Through sound science and true collaboration, we have identified an area best suited for offshore wind development that seeks to minimize conflicts with other important ocean uses.”

Tuesday’s announcement was made at the Wind Technology Testing Center (WTTC). Owned and operated by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the WTTC tests manufacturers’ wind turbine blades to see how they will perform in the field and is the largest wind blade testing facility in North America.

The Massachusetts Wind Energy Area is located off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard and, from its northern boundary 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. A map of the Wind Energy Area is here.

Tuesday’s 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 $5.4 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 a Fisheries Working Group on Offshore Renewable Energy to discuss issues and compatibilities 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 and identify 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. The Commonwealth has also 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 New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, the first facility in the nation designed to support the construction, assembly and deployment of offshore wind projects.

The Patrick Administration’s aggressive clean energy initiatives have made Massachusetts a leader in energy efficiency, renewable energy and emissions reductions. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy has named Massachusetts number one for three years running. Last year, Governor Patrick set a new solar goal after reaching the previous goal of 250 megawatts four years early. The Commonwealth now aims to install 1,600 megawatts of solar capacity by 2020. Currently, there are 518 megawatts installed, capable of powering nearly 79,000 homes. The clean energy revolution is yielding economic benefits as well, with 11.8 percent job growth in the last year; nearly 80,000 people are employed in the cleantech industry in Massachusetts.

Tuesday’s Proposed Sale Notice announcement triggers a 60-day public comment period. 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 companies wishing to participate in the lease sale to submit their qualification package, if they have not already done so. 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. The Proposed Sale Notice provides more information about qualification requirements. 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 the BOEM 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.