New proposals for alternative energy projects in federal waters off the coast of Massachusetts will have to wait for the time being.
U.S. Minerals Management Service director Randall Luthi announced this week that 16 sites around the country have been designated as places where companies may compete for temporary leases to collect data and test technology for renewable energy projects.
Waters off the Bay State’s coast were not among the areas chosen in what federal officials said was the first round of site selections under an interim policy.
The wind farm proposed by Cape Wind Associates LLC for federal waters in Nantucket Sound is not affected by the announcement because the project was exempted when the federal government’s offshore alternative energy program was first created.
A Dutch-owned company that has proposed a floating wind farm further offshore will need to wait for a second round of site selections by Minerals Management Service to find out if it will be able to move forward with tests for the platforms required for the project.
Blue H, USA LLC, announced plans in March to install 120 floating turbines 23 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and 45 miles west of New Bedford. That site did not make the list released Thursday by federal officials.
“It really has no affect on us,” said Martin Reilly, spokesman for Blue H.
Because Blue H submitted its proposal later in the nomination process than other applicants, it could not be considered in this first round, he said.
Company representatives have met with Minerals Management Service officials and received positive feedback from the agency, Reilly said.
“We are very confident that we will be approved in the next round,” he said.
Minerals Management Service selected sites off the coast of five states – New Jersey, Delaware, Georgia, Florida and California – to open up for competition. The sites were based on proposals related to wind energy, ocean current energy and wave energy projects.
If there is no competition for a particular site, a lease could be issued for testing and data collection after environmental studies are complete, Maureen Bornholdt, program manager for the agency’s Alternative Energy and Alternative Use Program, said in a telephone interview yesterday.
More than 40 sites were nominated for consideration by alternative energy developers. The remaining sites are still under consideration, Bornholdt said.
“They’re still in the queue,” she said.
A second round of designations could be announced by the start of the summer, Bornholdt said.
Minerals Management Service was authorized to establish an offshore alternative energy program as part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. The agency released an interim policy in November for leases to test technology and collect data in federal waters.
Minerals Management Service officials expect to announce permanent rules for leasing offshore areas for commercial-scale alternative energy projects by the end of the year.
The Cape Wind project – a source of controversy for the past seven years – was allowed to continue on a parallel permitting track with the creation of the new rules. Cape Wind installed a meteorological data tower in the sound five years ago to collect wind measurements and other data.
Monday is the final day to submit public comment on a draft environmental report Minerals Management Service released in January on Cape Wind. A final report on the project is expected by the end of the year.
By Patrick Cassidy
19 April 2008
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