The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) has officially set in motion a future offshore wind lease auction for more than 742,000 acres off the coast of Massachusetts.
The agency says 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 commerical-scale wind energy projects. The DOI's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) proposes to auction the designated Wind Energy Area as four leases.
DOI Secretary Sally Jewell says the competitive lease sale "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.’
Gov. Deval Patrick, D-Mass., calls the announcement "a momentous occasion."
"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," says Patrick.
The DOI says that since taking office in 2007, Patrick's administration has worked to position Massachusetts as a hub for the emerging U.S. offshore wind industry. These efforts include the construction of the Marine Commerce Terminal in New Bedford, the first facility in the U.S. designed to support the construction, assembly and deployment of offshore wind projects.
The Proposed Sale Notice 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.
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). The DOI notes that competitive lease sales have already 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.