As part of the U.S. goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy capacity by 2030, the Department of the Interior announced the next steps to bring the opportunity of offshore wind energy to the Gulf of Maine.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has made available a Request for Interest and Request for Competitive Interest in the Federal Register for public comment.
“President Biden has set ambitious goals to address the climate crisis, and in response, the Interior Department is taking historic steps to develop a robust and sustainable clean energy future,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. “Today’s announcement for the Gulf of Maine represents one of the many milestones that this Administration has achieved to advance offshore wind development, create good-paying jobs, and lower consumer energy costs, while collaborating with our government partners, Tribes, and key stakeholders to protect biodiversity, advance environmental justice and safeguard other ocean uses.”
“As we work to spur offshore wind development and deploy floating offshore wind technology nationwide, BOEM recognizes the rich cultural heritage and ecological importance of the Gulf of Maine region, which is why we are using the best available science and traditional knowledge from ocean users and other stakeholders in our planning and leasing process,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton. “We are committed to a transparent, inclusive, and data-driven process that avoids or minimizes potential conflicts with marine life and ensures all ocean users flourish.”
By 2025, the Interior Department plans to hold up to five additional offshore lease sales and complete the review of at least 16 plans to construct and operate commercial, offshore wind energy facilities, which would represent more than 22 gigawatts of clean energy for the nation.
According to the DOI statement, investments from the recently signed Inflation Reduction Act will lower energy costs by hundreds of dollars per year for families by making clean energy more affordable and accessible.
Request for Interest for Commercial Offshore Wind Planning and Leasing
This is the first step in BOEM’s commercial planning and leasing process which identifies the offshore locations that appear most suitable for development, taking into consideration potential impacts on other resources and ocean users. The purpose of it is to gauge interest in the development of commercial wind energy leases in an area of about 13,713,800 acres in the Gulf of Maine.
Request for Competitive Interest for Maine’s Research Lease
This is the next step in processing the State of Maine’s application for a research lease and provides notice of the proposed research area that Maine requested. If BOEM does not receive any indications of competitive interest for a lease in response to this notice, BOEM will move forward with the research application. However, if one or more indications of competitive interest from qualified entities are submitted, BOEM may decide to move forward with the lease issuance process using competitive leasing procedures.
Maine’s application requests 9,700 acres on the Outer Continental Shelf more than 20 nautical miles off the Maine coast. If developed, the research array would comprise up to 12 floating offshore wind turbines capable of generating up to 144 megawatts of renewable energy.
The area of 68,320 acres expands upon Maine’s requested research lease area to allow future sitting flexibility to avoid or minimize conflicts with existing ocean users should a lease be issued. Only a project that is approximately the size of Maine’s research lease proposal – no more than 10,000 acres and no more than 12 floating turbines – and provides a conceptual framework for addressing the research priorities will have the potential to move forward.
It is worth noting that BOEM is funding several priority studies to inform any potential commercial leasing and development in the Gulf of Maine. BOEM has invested $80 million to collect baseline information in the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Maine to date. Recently funded studies include:
- Standardizing Integrated Ecosystem-Based Assessments
- Ecological Baseline Study of the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf Off Maine
- Comprehensive Assessment of Existing Gulf of Maine Ecosystem Data and Identification of Data Gaps to Inform Future Research
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science will also develop ecosystem-based models to support and inform BOEM’s identification of lease areas.