News roundup: Massachusetts and Department of Interior look to offshore

18 June 2014 by Peebles Squire Peebles Squire

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell joined Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick on Tuesday to announce a major new development in the progress of American offshore wind power. The largest-ever area in the country to be designated for offshore development will be off the coast of The Bay State.

The 742,000 acres to be opened for lease is the biggest in the country. Associated Press:

  • The area is about 12 miles offshore, south of Martha’s Vineyard, and will be auctioned as four leases, which officials hope to sell before the end of the year. Fourteen offshore wind energy companies have already expressed interest in the leases and that number could grow, Jewell said.
  • So far the government has awarded five commercial wind energy leases off the Atlantic Coast, including Cape Wind and an area off Delaware. Two competitive leases also have been awarded in the Massachusetts-Rhode Island area and Virginia. Tuesday’s announcement triggers a 60-day public comment period ending on August 18. Comments will be considered before the publication of the final sale notice, setting the time and date of the lease sale.
  • Patrick said offshore wind power is a potential boon for Massachusetts, which has no oil or coal reserves. “We sit at the end of the energy pipeline and we are held in some sense hostage to the fossil fuel roller-coaster,” he said. “Offshore wind … represents an opportunity to create our own Massachusetts-made energy.”

The city of New Bedford has been waiting for this moment, as it makes progress on its Wind Energy Center, designed to handle new offshore wind power in the Northeast. South Coast Today:

  • After a tour of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center facility, which was built two years ago to test ever-larger turbine blades, Jewell and Patrick praised the state's development of an offshore wind-energy industry.
  • Matthew Morrissey, head of the New Bedford Wind Energy Center, said that the port facility now being built at South Terminal will be nearest to the new site, and there is nothing else being built to compete with it. Starting in about five years, he said, there will be a decade of construction of wind turbines in the newly delineated area.
  • Fourteen companies have expressed interest in leasing areas off the state's coast for wind energy, Patrick said. "The one thing we stand to gain is the fact that we will have the only staging facility onshore in New Bedford to supply projects like this," he said about a terminal being built in the South Coast city to deploy offshore wind projects.

The announcement makes room for new four new lease areas within the larger zone, preparing Massachusetts to “lead the charge” on American wind power offshore. Boston Globe:

  • In a Tuesday press release, US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management acting director Walter Cruickshank announced that more than 742,000 acres off the shore of Massachusetts will be divided into four lease areas. It is likely that those lease areas will be auctioned off by the end of the year. The four lease areas range in size from roughly 248,000 acres to about 140,000 acres.
  • Tuesday’s announcement is the latest step in a process that began in late 2010 when the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management sought to gauge commercial interest in wind energy development in the waters off Massachusetts.
  • In a statement, Patrick said: “Today’s announcement is a momentous occasion and the culmination of years of cooperation and hard work between the Commonwealth and federal officials. 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.”

Be sure to check out Monday’s news roundup: Ohio falters on new clean energy

Sources:

Steve LeBlanc, “More Ocean Off Mass. Open For Wind Energy.” WBUR. 17 June 2014.

Patrick Cassidy and Steve Urbon, “742K acres off Massachusetts open for wind energy.” South Coast Today. 18 June 2014.

Chris Reidy, “Auction for wind energy leases off Massachusetts is one step closer.” Boston Globe. 17 June 2014.