The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the state of Massachusetts announced that 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 commerical-scale wind energy projects.
The Massachusetts Wind Energy Area is located approximately 12 miles offshore Massachusetts – from its northern boundary, the area extends 33 NM southward and has an east/west extent of approximately 47 NM. BOEM proposes to auction the Wind Energy Area as four leases.
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.
“Massachusetts has been working hand in hand with BOEM to foster responsible commercial wind development in federal waters off Massachusetts,” said BOEM Acting Director Walter 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 Massachusetts 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 state has also 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 state has conducted dozens of public meetings and stakeholder sessions to discuss the Federal offshore wind leasing process.
The Proposed Sale Notice announced yesterday triggers a 60-day public comment period ending on Aug. 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.
For information on wind energy leasing offshore Massachusetts, including the Proposed Sale Notice, Revised Environmental Assessment, FONSI, and a map of the proposed lease areas, click here.
Public comments for the Massachusetts Proposed Sale Notice may be submitted at www.regulations.gov under Docket No. BOEM-2014-0034.