State and federal officials have released a map designating a large swath of ocean south of Cape Cod and the Islands for potential leasing to developers of commercial-scale offshore wind farms.
The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement and state officials announced today the publication of a “request for interest” to find out where in the 3,000-square-mile area developers might pursue projects. The federal agency, which replaced the Minerals Management Service, will accept public comments on the measure until Feb. 28.
The area begins about 12 nautical miles south of the islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard and extends 31 nautical miles out to sea.
The proposed Nantucket Sound wind farm, by comparison, would be located about 5.2 statute miles from the nearest land. A nautical mile is 6,076 feet while a statute mile is 5,280 feet.
“The Request for Interest issued by the Obama administration today begins a process that will lead to up to 4,000 megawatts of wind energy installed far off our shores – enough electricity to power 1.7 million households and equal to the electricity currently generated by all the coal-fired plants in Massachusetts – and take this new US industry from infancy to maturity,” Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles said in a statement released today.
“Let there be no question that Massachusetts is, and will be, the nation’s offshore wind leader – spurring technological innovation and technology to reduce costs and improve performance.”
Islanders have expressed concerns about the leasing area that range from the impact of wind turbines on fishing grounds to the likelihood that large turbines will be visible from shore. Earlier this year the federal government agreed to move the border of the area south of the islands further out to sea and reduced the overall area covered in response to some of these concerns.
The state also announced today that it would be developing a research and development program to reduce the cost of offshore wind energy.
The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center will partner with and provide matching funding to Massachusetts research institutions and offshore wind developers to win federal funding with the goal of reducing the cost of offshore wind 40 percent by end of the decade and 60 percent by 2030 or to between 7 and 9 cents per kilowatt hour.
Half of the power and other commodities from Cape Wind, which is not affected by the newly announced leasing area, will cost National Grid 18.7 cents per kilowatt hour under a contract recently approved by the state Department of Public Utilities.
For National Grid’s average residential customer who uses 618 kilowatt hours a month the additional cost of Cape Wind’s power will equal about $1.50 each month.
See tomorrow’s Cape Cod Times for more on this developing story.