Patrick-Murray Administration Proposes Changes to Area Under Consideration for Offshore Wind Energy Development
Responding to concerns of the commercial fishing industry and other stakeholders, proposal would shield important fishing grounds in federal waters
Link to letter and map. file size 1MB
BOSTON - Tuesday, April 19, 2011 - The Patrick-Murray Administration has requested that the federal government refine the area being considered for offshore wind energy development to remove from further consideration certain areas identified by commercial fishermen, fisheries scientists, and other maritime users as vital to the Commonwealth's fishing industry.
The Administration's request would remove from the federal leasing process approximately half of a 3,000 square mile area in federal waters south of Massachusetts originally identified by federal officials for potential wind power development. Among the territory exempted from consideration for wind energy siting under the Administration's proposal are shipping lanes and waters on the eastern side of the original lease area important to the Massachusetts fishing industry.
"This proposal will enable Massachusetts to lead the country in a burgeoning offshore wind industry, while also protecting our vibrant commercial fishing industry that is so vital to our economy," said Governor Deval Patrick.
"Governor Patrick is committed to making Massachusetts the nation's offshore wind energy leader," Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. said. "We submitted a proposal that would move the Commonwealth toward that goal while safeguarding waters important to our commercial fishing industry. Informed by discussions with fishermen and a review of existing science, this proposal will promote responsible siting of offshore wind energy, paving the way for Massachusetts to benefit from the clean energy jobs and economic development this new industry will bring."
United States Congressmen Barney Frank, Bill Keating, John Tierney and Edward Markey, and New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang support the Administration's recommendation to exclude from further consideration for offshore wind energy development waters on the eastern portion of the RFI area, and to further study existing fisheries and fish habitat throughout the RFI area.
"We appreciate the commitment of Governor Patrick and Secretary Sullivan to enter into partnership with the fishing industry on this very important and complex environmental issue," said New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang. "Offshore wind energy developments offer a green energy solution that decreases our dependence on foreign oil, but they must be balanced with science and the sustainability of fishing communities. We are grateful the Administration fully understands this and has pledged to collaborate with the commercial fishing industry and scientists as sites for offshore energy developments are explored."
On December 29, 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE) issued a Request for Interest (RFI) for Commercial Leasing for Wind Power on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore of Massachusetts. Issuance of the RFI was the first step in a multi-year federal leasing process for offshore wind energy development, and included a map identifying approximately 3,000 square miles of federal waters off the Massachusetts coast for consideration. In late February, the Patrick-Murray Administration, members of the Massachusetts Congressional delegation, and Massachusetts fishermen requested that BOEMRE extend the public comment period for the RFI. This extension was granted and enabled the Massachusetts Department of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) to convene a Fisheries Working Group on Offshore Renewable Energy to address issues between commercial fishing and offshore wind power development. A Habitat Working Group was also convened to examine ecosystem issues relating to the potential lease area.
The Commonwealth's proposal to change the RFI area was submitted yesterday in accordance with BOEMRE's extended public comment deadline of Monday, April 18.
"As a concerned fisherman and member of the Fisheries Working Group, I would like to applaud the efforts of Governor Patrick for reaching out to the local fishermen and the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth School of Marine Science and Technology for their input," said Eric Hansen, owner of the scallop boat Endeavor. "A major victory for local fishermen will be realized if the federal government follows the recommendation of Governor Patrick in the exclusion of all area east of 70 degrees west longitude. The business of the Fisheries Working Group is by no means complete - much study and research needs to be completed before any wind exploration can start in the remaining area."
The U.S. Department of Energy (U.S. DOE) projects that the offshore wind industry will create 43,000 jobs nationally by 2020. With an abundance of offshore wind resources and other suitable siting conditions (water depth, bottom geology, and proximity to electricity market), Massachusetts is well positioned to capture many of those jobs. EEA estimates that development of offshore wind in the federal waters south of Massachusetts could produce 4 gigawatts of electricity, enough to power 70 percent of Massachusetts households and equal to the total electricity currently generated by all of the Commonwealth's coal-fired power plants.
Of the $22 billion Massachusetts residents and businesses spend each year on energy, nearly $18 billion leaves the state's economy to pay for coal, natural gas, and oil from the Middle East, South America, Canada, and other parts of the United States, according to EEA's Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2020 released in December. This dependence on fossil fuels increases air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, leaves the Commonwealth exposed to price volatility, and provides little economic multiplier benefits for Massachusetts residents.
Through a strategic portfolio of clean energy policies and programs - including support for developing offshore wind energy, the Patrick-Murray Administration is positioning Massachusetts to reclaim that lost economic activity. As a companion to the federal RFI issued in December, EEA solicited from potential wind power developers their thoughts and expertise regarding locations for assembly and maintenance of wind turbines and the supply chain needed by a new offshore wind industry, with an eye toward expanding the Bay State's emerging wind energy sector. Additionally, the Commonwealth is committed to working with federal officials to achieve U.S. DOE's goal of reducing the cost of electricity generated by offshore wind by 40 percent by the end of this decade and 60 percent (7 to 9 cents per kilowatt hour) by 2030.
The Patrick-Murray Administration is already moving aggressively to bring down the capital costs of wind power through its efforts to foster the Massachusetts wind energy cluster. In addition to being home to Cape Wind - the nation's first offshore wind project, which will generate 468 megawatts of emissions-free energy and create approximately 1,000 clean energy jobs, the Massachusetts offshore wind cluster includes:
- The Wind Technology Testing Center in Charlestown, funded with a U.S. DOE stimulus grant and operated by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, which opens this spring as the world's largest wind blade testing facility and the first facility in the United States capable of testing the next generation of wind blades;
- New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, the first U.S. facility with capability to construct and assemble offshore wind projects;
- Massachusetts-based Mass Tank's plans to manufacture the foundation monopoles and other structural steel components for offshore wind turbines in-state, creating at least 100 jobs;
- Wind company Siemens opening its North American offshore wind headquarters in Boston; and
- TPI Composites, Inc., a leading global supplier of wind turbine blades, expanding its operations from Warren, RI to Fall River where the company is constructing a wind blade innovation center to support TPI manufacturing facilities around the world.
Massachusetts is also home to a significant brain trust in renewable energy development including two of the nation's leading academic institutions on wind research: the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the Massachusetts Institute for Technology, as well as the world's largest nonprofit oceanography center, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.
BOEMRE's RFI was the first step under U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar's "Smart from the Start" offshore wind renewable energy initiative. It allows BOEMRE to identify priority areas for potential wind energy development, and promotes an informed and responsible siting and permitting process for offshore wind projects. BOEMRE's process will include review of RFI responses by the Massachusetts Offshore Renewable Energy Task Force, as well as public participation and thorough environmental review under all applicable laws before any energy projects are permitted.
To date, EEA has convened over 30 public meetings and stakeholder sessions in Boston, New Bedford, Martha's Vineyard, and Nantucket to discuss the federal offshore wind leasing process. EEA will continue to engage the public, as well as the Fisheries Working Group and Habitat Working Group, with BOEMRE in the months ahead.