Zoned for wind farms: Waters south of Cape allotted for energy projects


Zoned for wind farms: Waters south of Cape allotted for energy projects

Massachusetts and federal officials have designated a 3,000-square-mile swath of ocean south of Cape Cod and the Islands as available to lease to developers of commercial-scale offshore wind farms.

State officials and the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement on Tuesday announced a “request for interest” to find out where in the area developers might want to pursue projects.

The area begins about 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard and about 24 miles south of Nantucket. It extends more than 35 miles out to sea.

It “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 U.S. industry from infancy to maturity,” Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles said Tuesday.
In New Bedford, the leasing areas mean jobs and the revitalization of the city’s port, New Bedford Economic Development Council Executive Director Matthew Morrissey said. Cape Wind has fueled interest in Massachusetts as a “first mover” in the offshore wind industry, he said.

In October, Gov. Deval Patrick and Bowles announced that the port of New Bedford had been chosen as the site for a multimillion-dollar facility to support the installation of offshore wind projects including Cape Wind.

The estimated $35 million New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal, which is planned for roughly 20 acres in the South Terminal area of the port, is expected to bring hundreds of jobs to the region and thrust New Bedford and the state to the forefront of the offshore renewable industry, according to state officials.

“There are very substantial opportunities for not just New Bedford but for other places,” Morrissey said, adding that European ports are examples of how offshore wind energy projects can help local maritime-based economies.

Bowles said information from developers and public comment will be collected ahead of a formal leasing process that will include an environmental review.

A task force that helped develop the request for interest will continue to meet and use public comments and new information to determine where leases for offshore wind are appropriate, he said.

“This is a multi-layered, ongoing, science-based review process,” he said.

But residents of Martha’s Vineyard continued to express concerns about offshore wind farms in state and federal waters, including the impact of turbines on fishing grounds and whether the projects will be visible from shore.

“Beyond that, I think that Martha’s Vineyard would like to see a community benefit if there is going to be wind development and it is going to affect the island in some way,” said Douglas Sederholm, a member of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission.

Vineyard fishermen have major concerns about the impact of turbines on navigation, said Michele Jones, secretary of the Dukes County Martha’s Vineyard Fishermen Association.

It isn’t clear whether fishermen will be allowed to work in the turbine area, she said of the possibility that insurers will require offshore wind energy developers to exclude vessels from the area.

For the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah), the process is the immediate problem, tribal historic preservation officer Bettina Washington said.

The federal government is required to consult the tribe but has not yet done so, she said, adding that meetings of the task force do not substitute for formal consultations.

The state also announced Tuesday that it would develop a research and development program to reduce the cost of offshore wind energy.

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center will partner with and provide matching funding to Massachusetts research institutions and offshore wind developers to win federal funding. The goal will be to reduce the cost of offshore wind 40 percent by the end of the decade and 60 percent by 2030 or to between 7 and 9 cents per kilowatt hour, according to a press release from Bowles’ office.
December 29, 2010 12:00 AM

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