Feds Designate New Wind Energy Area Off Mass.

Feds Designate New Wind Energy Area Off Mass.

Gulf of Maine Wind Energy Area

MARCH 15, 2024…..Opening a new frontier in the region’s offshore wind power push, the federal government on Friday finalized its designation of a two-million acre wind energy area off the coasts of Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said the designated Gulf of Maine area would support President Joe Biden’s goals of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy capacity by 2030 and 15 gigawatts of floating offshore wind energy capacity by 2035.

The area, which ranges from 23 to 92 miles off the coasts of the three states, has the potential to support generation of 32 gigawatts of clean energy, the bureau said. That amount of energy surpasses “current state goals for offshore wind energy in the Gulf of Maine: 10 GW for Massachusetts and 3 GW for Maine,” BOEM said.

As part of a transition away from fossil fuels, Massachusetts and other East Coast states are at the dawn of a years-long effort to eventually make offshore wind turbines a major source of power, with initial efforts in Massachusetts focused on areas south of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. The newly designated zone lies to the east of the state.

The area’s designation “is a major step in the transition of our energy economy from dirty fossil fuels to clean wind energy,” said Kate Sinding Daly, senior vice president of law and policy at the Conservation Law Foundation.

BOEM “did a thorough job of listening to concerns about protecting marine life,” Daly said.

“For the most part this designation has carved out the most sensitive areas and excluded them from wind turbine construction,” Daly said. “CLF will continue to work with BOEM to ensure all possible protections for vulnerable marine wildlife and important habitats are built into the process as it moves toward leasing and construction of these floating turbines. This a very good day for our climate and our energy future.”

BOEM said it finalized the area’s boundaries after “extensive engagement” with the three states, tribes, local residents, ocean users including the fishing community, federal government partners, and others.

The bureau plans to publish a notice in the Federal Register on Monday announcing its intent to prepare an environmental assessment of potential impacts from offshore wind leasing activities in the wind energy area.

The notice will initiate a 30-day public comment period, and BOEM said another public comment period would occur if the agency decides to move forward with a lease sale in the wind energy area.

The designated zone represents an 80 percent reduction from the area BOEM initially identified for possible leasing and a 43 percent reduction from the draft wind energy area, the agency said, citing its responsiveness to feedback. The area avoids important areas for lobster fishing, other fishing areas, and North Atlantic right whale habitat, the agency said, and the majority of the historical and present-day fishing grounds of tribal nations within Maine.

“BOEM is committed to maintaining strong collaboration with the states of Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire as we advance our efforts in the Gulf of Maine,” BOEM Director Elizabeth Klein said in a statement. “We remain dedicated to engaging with Tribal governments, federal and state agencies, ocean stakeholders, coastal communities, and all interested parties as we progress through our environmental review.”

The Biden administration on Thursday celebrated the completion of South Fork Wind project off Long Island, N.Y, with the White House calling it a “watershed moment” for its climate and energy agenda. The White House said “the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm … is expected to generate approximately 130 megawatts of clean energy, enough to power more than 70,000 homes.”

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