The Obama administration Friday hit the on switch for wind farm development south of Martha’s Vineyard. In a joint press conference Friday with Massachusetts officials, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), announced it is soliciting proposals for commercial wind energy development on the outer continental shelf (OCS).
The area under consideration is approximately 12 nautical miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and 13 nautical miles southwest of Nantucket, and approximately 826,241 acres in size according to a BOEM press release.
“BOEM recognizes the proactive steps that the Commonwealth has taken to encourage environmentally sound offshore wind energy development, and we are working together to refine a suitable Wind Energy Area off the coast of Massachusetts,” BOEM director Tommy P. Beaudreau said. “We will follow marine spatial planning principles as we continue to gather information and coordinate with other OCS users throughout the leasing process.”
“Massachusetts is in the midst of a clean energy revolution, making investments in renewable energy projects across the state,” Massachusetts energy undersecretary Barbara Kates-Garnick said. “These projects stabilize longterm energy costs, create homegrown sources of energy and create local jobs. We’re thrilled to have the support of our federal partners in these efforts and look forward to future collaboration.”
BOEM had originally identified a larger lease area for development. In April 2011, the Patrick Administration asked for a redefinition to remove from further consideration certain areas identified by commercial fishermen, fisheries scientists, and other maritime users as vital to the state’s fishing industry.
In response, BOEM reduced the proposed lease area’s size by about 50 percent. BOEM said it would seek public comment as part of the environmental assessment process “on the environmental and socioeconomic issues to be considered as well as alternatives and mitigation measures.”
State and federal officials hope this process will pave the way to speedier wind farm development in offshore areas.
“Today’s announcement,” BOEM said Friday, “is the latest step in the Department of Interior ‘Smart from the Start’ offshore wind initiative, to facilitate efficient and environmentally responsible renewable energy development by improving coordination with state, local and federal partners, identifying and refining priority Wind Energy Areas for potential development and conducting early environmental reviews.”
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