After an initial announcement in November, the Department of the Interior is preparing for its first auction for offshore wind energy on the outer continental shelf. In a two-phase auction beginning July 29th, nine companies including Cape Wind will be eligible to bid on development rights to nearly 165,000 acres located nine miles off the Rhode Island coastline near Martha’s Vineyard. The Department of the Interior announced the auctions last month and the selected companies are ready to make offshore wind a key component of New England’s clean energy portfolio.
The process will create two 25-year leases, in which the winning lease holders will have six months to create site assessment plans and four and a half years to design a construction and operations plan. The wind auction could provide electricity sufficient to power 1 million homes, a jumpstart on harnessing the 4,000 gigawatts of offshore wind energy nationwide, 33% of which lie on the Atlantic coast. The billions of acres of coastal ocean floor controlled by the U.S. offer a means of developing clean energy in unutilized offshore areas, with fewer complications over siting.
Newly elected Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts believes that the government’s first project in offshore wind leasing will be a success. “With lease sales in federal waters, offshore wind will also be a boon for US taxpayers,” Markey said after last month’s announcement.
I commend the Interior Department for working closely with the states…and for conducting these lease sales in a way that will ensure leases go to companies that are serious about developing new wind energy.
As the federal government begins its offshore wind leasing, the industry and other stakeholders will need to work with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to develop the procurement and financing mechanisms needed to make the auctions a success. Cape Wind, with its permitting secured on the Nantucket Sound site, has expressed interest in the upcoming auctions as a gauge of the future potential in offshore wind energy further from New England coastlines. The inclusion of Deepwater Wind, currently constructing a wind project off Block Island, demonstrates that the federal government has gathered a lineup of bidders poised to accelerate the nation’s offshore wind industry.
In a statement on the upcoming auctions, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell hailed the leasing process as a decisive step forward in offshore wind development:
Today we are moving closer to tapping into the enormous potential offered by offshore wind to create jobs, increase our sustainability, and strengthen our nation’s competitiveness in this new energy frontier.