Commercial Wind Leasing Offshore Massachusetts

Wind Energy Area Offshore Massachusetts
Wind Energy Area Offshore
Massachusetts
 

Assessing Commercial Interest

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act requires BOEM to award leases for renewable energy projects competitively, unless BOEM determines there is no competitive interest.  On Dec. 29, 2010, BOEM (formerly Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement) published a Request for Interest (RFI) in the Federal Register to gauge commercial interest in wind energy development offshore Massachusetts. BOEM also invited the public to comment and provide information-including information on environmental issues and data-for consideration of the RFI area for commercial wind energy leases.

The Massachusetts RFI area was delineated based on deliberation and consultation with the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Task Force.  The subsequent selection of a Wind Energy Area (WEA) was based on input received on this RFI area.  Responding to requests received from the public and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, BOEM reopened the comment period for the RFI on March 17, 2011. The comment period ended on April 18, 2011.

BOEM received eleven indications of interest from ten companies wishing to obtain a commercial lease for a wind energy project. The company names and the OCS blocks they nominated can be viewed by clicking here. BOEM also received about 260 public comments in response to the RFI, which are available on regulations.gov.  After careful consideration of the public comments, as well as input from BOEM's intergovernmental Massachusetts Renewable Energy Task Force, BOEM modified the planning area offshore Massachusetts and proceeded to publish a Call for Information and Nominations ("Call") in the Federal Register on Feb. 6, 2012 to identify locations within the offshore Call Area in which there was industry interest to seek commercial leases for developing wind projects. BOEM also published a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Assessment of the Call Area. 

The Call Area was located off the coast of Massachusetts beginning approximately 12 nautical miles south of Martha's Vineyard and 13 nautical miles southwest of Nantucket. It contains 826,241 acres and contains 132 whole OCS lease blocks as well as 19 partial blocks.  Click on the links below to view maps of the Call area.

The comment period for the Call closed on March 22, 2012. BOEM received 32 comments and ten nominations of interest in response.   

After considering the comments submitted in response to the Call, BOEM decided to exclude certain areas identified as important habitats that could be adversely affected if ultimately developed with the installation of wind turbine generators.  Specifically, BOEM excluded an area of high sea duck concentration, as well as an area of high value fisheries to reduce conflict with commercial and recreational fishing activities. 

National Renewable Energy Laboratory Assessment Report

The Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), under an interagency agreement with BOEM, provided technical assistance to identify and delineate leasing areas for offshore wind energy development within Wind Energy Areas on the Atlantic Coast. In December 2013, NREL submitted a report to BOEM that focuses on the Massachusetts Wind Energy Area. To access the report, click here.

Proposed Sale Notice

On June 17, 2014, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruickshank joined Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick to announce that more than 742,000 acres offshore Massachusetts will be available for commercial wind energy leasing. The proposed area is the largest in federal waters and will nearly double the federal offshore acreage available for commerical-scale wind energy projects. For more information, click on the links below.

The Massachusetts Proposed Sale Notice (PSN) was made available for a 60-day public comment period, which closed on August 18, 2014. BOEM received 25 comments in response to the Massachusetts PSN, which are available here.

Environmental Review

BOEM published a "Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) for Commercial Wind Leasing and Site Assessment Activities on the Atlantic OCS Offshore Massachusetts" in the Federal Register on February 6, 2012 under Docket ID: BOEM-2011-0116.  The purpose of the EA is to consider environmental consequences associated with issuing commercial wind leases and approving site assessment activities in the Massachusetts WEA. If a lessee proposes development activity, the specific proposal will be given full environmental review (likely an Environmental Impact Statement) at that time.

On May 30, 2012, BOEM announced that, together with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, BOEM completed its identification of a (WEA) offshore Massachusetts.  The WEA begins approximately 12 nautical miles south of Martha's Vineyard and 13 nautical miles southwest of Nantucket. From its northern boundary, the area extends 33 nautical miles southward to the 60 meter depth contour and has an east/west extent of approximately 47 nautical miles. The WEA is approximately 742,974 acres and contains 117 whole OCS lease blocks as well as 20 partial blocks.  This entire area will be considered for leasing and approval of site assessment plans as the proposed action under the National Environmental Policy Act.

In the EA, BOEM then evaluated the potential environmental effects of lease issuance and approval of site assessment activities in the WEA which considered, among other things, potential impacts on endangered North Atlantic right whales and effects on viewshed.  The EA also considered mitigation measures that could reduce potential impacts on these and other resources within the WEA. 

On November 2, 2012, BOEM announced the availability of the EA for public review and comment.  BOEM considered those comments and on June 4, 2014 BOEM made available a revised environmental assessment (EA) for the WEA offshore Massachusetts. As a result of the analysis in the revised EA, BOEM issued a "Finding of No Significant Impact" (FONSI), which concluded that reasonably foreseeable environmental effects associated with the commercial wind lease issuance and related activities would not significantly impact the environment. For more information, click on the links below:

Next Steps

BOEM is reviewing the comments submitted in response to the Massachusetts PSN and determining whether to make any changes to the proposed auction details or proposed terms and conditions of the leases published with the PSN. The final details of the auction and terms and conditions of the leases will be published in a Final Sale Notice (FSN). The auction can be held no sooner than 30 days after publication of the FSN in the Federal Register.