The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) today announced that it reduced the size of the offshore Wind Energy Area between Rhode Island and Massachusetts by excluding commercially important fishing grounds.
The reduced Wind Energy Area includes approximately 164,750 acres within the original area identified by Rhode Island and Massachusetts in a 2010 memorandum of understanding.
The area is one of several along the Atlantic coast with high wind potential that BOEM is evaluating for commercial wind leasing.
“Today’s announcement is an important step toward development of our nation’s remarkable wind energy resource offshore Rhode Island and Massachusetts,” said Department of Interior Deputy Secretary David Hayes. “The Department will continue to do its part to build a world-class offshore wind industry that provides clean, reliable, home-grown power and the American jobs that come with it.”
The Wind Energy Area will be identified and permitted under the Department of the Interior’s “Smart from the Start” wind energy initiative. BOEM’s decision to remove certain commercial fishing grounds from the proposed Wind Energy Area comes as a result of extensive meetings with the regional fishing industry over the past two years. Other key considerations that will be further analyzed in the environmental assessment include the critically endangered North Atlantic Right Whale, vessel traffic and visual and cultural resources.
Earlier this week, Offshore Wind Development Coalition President Jim Lanard called the Right Whale the most significant environmental challenge facing the industry. He added, however, that the challenge can be overcome with due environmental diligence.
“BOEM identified this Wind Energy Area following extensive collaboration with Rhode Island, Massachusetts and a diverse set of stakeholders, including fishing interests,” said BOEM Director Tommy Beaudreau. “This milestone is ‘Smart from the Start’ because it will help ensure that offshore wind projects are sited in the right places, where the wind energy potential is significant and where environmental effects and potential conflicts with other uses can be minimized and managed.”