BOSTON – The proposed sale of leases for the largest area in the nation designated for offshore wind energy projects was announced by U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Gov. Deval Patrick and other officials Tuesday at the state’s wind turbine technology testing facility.
After a tour of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center facility, which was built two years ago to test ever-larger turbine blades, Jewell and Patrick praised the state’s development of an offshore wind-energy industry.
The newly opened area, starting 12 miles off Martha’s Vineyard, covers 742,000 acres and could support 4,000 to 5,000 megawatts of wind energy if fully developed, although that scenario is unlikely, according to officials.
“This area we are about to announce will be the largest wind-energy area on the Atlantic Coast,” Jewell said. “It will literally double the federal offshore acreage available for commercial scale wind energy projects and it’s going to do that in an area where there is a great deal of load.”
Matthew Morrissey, head of the New Bedford Wind Energy Center, said that the port facility now being built at South Terminal will be nearest to the new site, and there is nothing else being built to compete with it.
Starting in about five years, he said, there will be a decade of construction of wind turbines in the newly delineated area.
But first there must be a tax regime to handle some of the cost for this fledgling offshore wind energy industry, buyers and permits.
Morrissey, who attended the press conference, said he was pleased that both Gov. Patrick and Secretary Jewell made very specific mention of New Bedford in their remarks.
Several leases have already been awarded for offshore wind energy projects in the United States, including for Cape Wind Associates LLC in Nantucket Sound. Another area of 164,000 acres of ocean southwest of the Vineyard was auctioned off last year for $3.8 million to Deepwater Wind New England LLC, which has proposed building 150 to 200 wind turbines there.
The newest proposed sale notice will now go out for public comment and an auction for the area is expected by the end of the year, said Walter Cruickshank, acting director of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
It is unknown how many turbines will be built until developers who win the leases propose specific projects, Cruickshank said.
Fourteen companies have expressed interest in leasing areas off the state’s coast for wind energy, Patrick said.
“The one thing we stand to gain is the fact that we will have the only staging facility onshore in New Bedford to supply projects like this,” he said about a terminal being built in the South Coast city to deploy offshore wind projects. The number of jobs created will depend on the scale of the projects proposed, he said.
Jewell said lessons learned from permitting Cape Wind have been applied to the process for leasing the new areas.
“All of that is different from what happened in the very early days but if you don’t step out you don’t pioneer and you don’t learn,” she said. “We learned lessons from watching what happened in Cape Wind.”
The new zones are believed to have a higher potential and to be less likely to cause conflict, Jewell said.
“On the Cape people think wind turbines in Berkshire County is a great idea and out in the Berkshires where we go they think wind turbines on the Cape are a great idea,” Patrick said, adding that it’s a learning process to achieve community acceptance.
While environmentalists have praised Patrick’s support for wind, energy critics have complained that faulty siting of land-based projects, including some on Cape Cod and in Fairhaven, have caused neighbors to become ill and negatively affect property values. Offshore wind, meanwhile, has been criticized for the high price of the electricity it generates.
The area south of the Vineyard has already been vetted extensively. It was reduced by about half three years ago because of concerns about the impact on fishing and wildlife.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding