Winds of Change: The Promise of 3 Offshore Wind Farms in New England

Ivy Frignoca

Photo courtesy of phault @ flickr

This is an exciting time for clean energy in New England. Why? Because our region could have not one but three offshore wind farms constructed by 2016.  Not only that, these would be the first three in the nation!

The Cape Wind Project, off the coast of Cape Cod, will site 130 wind turbines between 4–11 miles offshore and produce an average of 170 MW of electricity, or about 75% of the average electricity demand for Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket Island. Block Island Wind Farm is scheduled to be constructed in Rhode Island state waters next spring. It is a 5 turbine, 30 megawatt demonstration-scale wind farm about three miles off of Block Island which will generate over 100,000 megawatt hours annually, supplying most of Block Island’s electricity with excess power exported to the mainland. And on a very exciting note, here in Maine, international energy company Statoil’s proposal to build a four turbine floating wind park is moving forward. For recent news coverage, read here.

Clean energy is sprouting up all around New England. For some projects, it’s about time. Recent FAA approvals on Cape Wind, for instance, come after more than a decade of exhaustive reviews and strong opposition from dirty energy-funded opponents. Each of these projects has enormous potential. Together, if built, these three offshore wind farms would transform New England’s energy mix.

Here in Maine, Statoil’s unsolicited bid to develop the floating wind farm is moving through the federal review process. The Bureau of Ocean energy Management (BOEM) has published a notice to determine if there are other developers interested in competing to use the area and to solicit comments about the proposal. The notice is published here.

CLF will provide comments that balance our commitment to helping New England develop clean renewable energy with protecting the ocean environment. BOEM published a second notice that it will prepare an environmental impact statement (EIS) when Statoil submits its construction and operations plan (COP). The EIS will consider the environmental consequences associated with the Hywind Maine project. BOEM will accept public comments about the environmental issues that should be considered in the EIS until November 8. For more, read here.

In addition, the Maine Public Utilities Commission (PUC) is reviewing the proposed terms of a long-term contract that would permit Statoil to sell the energy generated from the wind farm  into Maine’s energy grid over the next 20 years. The PUC’s authority to approve this contract flows from Maine’s 2010 Ocean Energy Act, which supports research and development of offshore wind energy technology. The PUC may decide whether to accept the proposed contract terms within the month.

For a current and accurate summary of the state of offshore wind off the Atlantic Coast, please read the National Wildlife Federation’s report released on September 24, “The Turning Point for Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy.” CLF helped write sections of the report and co-sponsored it.

There’s no question we’re making incredible progress – but there is more to be done. If you support this work, sign up to become a CLF e-activist to keep informed about our work. And check back in regularly for updates as we try to get these projects built!

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