NEW BEDFORD – For all of the ambitious goals set for the development of offshore wind, it will take years before any of the recent proposals become a reality.
That was clear Tuesday at a public information session conducted by officials of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs along with federal officials from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.
The extremely complex nature of a leasing, planning and assessment process involving multiple agencies will take time and so it should, officials stressed.
“The most time-consuming investment, and the best investment, is in the planning and analysis,” said Maureen A. Bornholdt, program manager for the Ocean Energy Bureau’s Offshore Alternative Energy Programs.
The sparsely attended afternoon presentation at the Fairfield Inn offered the public an update on a proposal to lease up to 1,300 square miles of federal waters south of Martha’s Vineyard for offshore wind turbines.
The request for interest put out by the federal government last December drew responses from 10 commercial entities, Bornholdt said. One of those companies has since withdrawn and “two or three” may now have to resubmit their applications since the sites they had selected fell within an area subsequently set aside to protect traditional fishing grounds.
There is no best estimate available for how long it might take to realize any of these alternative energy proposals.
“The Atlantic Ocean is really a frontier area for wind development so we don’t have the information to have a concrete schedule for these projects,” Bornholdt said.
A skeptical member of the audience suggested the entire affair was an academic exercise and scoffed upon learning that developers would be granted up to five years to complete a site assessment once they had negotiated a lease with the government.
However, using the paradigm of wind farm development in European waters, this is not at all excessive, Bornholdt said.
“The average is seven to nine years for completion there,” she said. “It takes time to do studies. It can take two years just to complete an avian study for Fish and Wildlife.”
Officials will be back in the city on Friday for a meeting to address potential conflicts between turbine fields and fishing gear in the proposed area.
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