Development of Offshore Wind Energy in Federal Waters off the Massachusetts Coast

The Patrick-Murray administration heralded the federal government’s initiation of a leasing process for offshore wind energy development in federal waters off of the Massachusetts coast. The announcement further secures the Commonwealth’s place as the nation’s leader on offshore wind turbines development.

“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,” Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Ian Bowles said. “Let there be no question that Massachusetts is, and will be, the nation’s offshore wind power leader – spurring technological innovation and technology to reduce costs and improve performance.”

“The offshore wind turbines industry is poised to create thousands of clean energy jobs, and Governor Patrick and I intend to make sure that a significant portion of those jobs are created here in Massachusetts,” EEA Secretary-Designate Rick Sullivan said.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) projects 43,000 clean energy jobs to be created in the offshore wind power industry nationally by 2020.

The US Department of Interior’s Bureau of Offshore Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) today issued a Request for Interest (RFI) to measure the offshore wind power industry’s interest in developing renewable energy projects within a 3,000 ( 2,224 nautical) square mile expanse of federal waters off the Massachusetts coast, beginning approximately 13.8 (12 nautical) miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The Massachusetts Renewable Energy Task Force – an interagency group of federal, state, tribal, and local elected officials – partnered with BOEMRE to draw the boundaries of the RFI area, which has excellent wind resources and water depths able to accommodate current and near term wind power technologies.

In tandem with BOEMRE, the Commonwealth issued a supplement to the RFI, Goals for Offshore Renewable Energy and Request for Additional Information, which broadens the scope of the federal government’s inquiry – asking the industry think broadly about build-out of wind energy facilities in the RFI area in terms of system design, engineering, construction, ownership, transmission and electric grid configuration.

In the supplement, the Commonwealth expresses interest in the development of up to 4 gigawatts (GW), or 4,000 MW, of installed generation in federal waters off the coast of Massachusetts provided such resources can be developed in a cost effective manner. EEA is also soliciting from RFI respondents their thoughts and expertise regarding locations for assembly of wind turbines, the supply chain needed by a new off-shore wind industry, and maintenance operations – utilizing, and adding to, the state’s emerging offshore wind farm industry.

In addition, Secretary Bowles announced that the Commonwealth is committed to developing a research and development (R&D) program to reduce the cost of offshore wind farm. Specifically, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) will partner with, and provide matching funds for, Massachusetts research institutions and offshore wind power industry leaders to win U.S. DOE funding in order to achieve DOE’s goal of reducing the cost of offshore wind 40 percent by end of this decade and 60 percent (to 7 to 9 cents per kWh) by 2030.

“By forging this partnership between public officials, leaders in the offshore wind energy industry and the Commonwealth’s world-class research institutions, we can accelerate growth in the offshore wind industry and drive down the cost of electricity generated by offshore wind turbines at an accelerated rate,” said MassCEC Executive Director Patrick Cloney.

The Commonwealth is already moving aggressively to bring down the capital costs of wind power through its efforts to foster a growing wind energy cluster in Massachusetts. In addition to being home to Cape Wind, the nation’s first offshore wind farm that 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 US DOE stimulus grant and operated by MassCEC, which will be the world’s largest wind blade testing facility and the only facility in the United States capable of testing the next generation of blades when it opens its doors in early 2011;

* New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, the first US 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 over 300 jobs;

* Wind power 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. A center for development of advanced blade manufacturing, the Fall River plant will serve as a launching pad for new wind blade products.

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 is the first step under US 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 Renewable Energy Task Force, as well as public participation and thorough environmental review under all applicable laws before any energy projects are permitted.