Feds prepare to lease wind energy parcels off Martha’s Vineyard

Rhode Island and Massachusetts wind energy area. — Photo courtesy of U.S. Dept. of Interior

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Tommy P. Beaudreau announced Tuesday that BOEM will hold the first-ever competitive lease sale for renewable energy on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) this summer.

The auction is scheduled to take place on July 31 and will offer 164,750 acres offshore of Rhode Island and Massachusetts for commercial wind energy leasing, according to a press release.

The Wind Energy Area is located 9.2 nautical miles south of the Rhode Island coastline and about 12 miles southwest of Martha’s Vineyard. BOEM will auction the area as two leases, referred to as the North Lease Area and the South Lease Area. The North Lease Area consists of about 97,500 acres and the South Lease Area covers about 67,250 acres.

“This is history in the making as we mark yet another major milestone in the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy,” Secretary Jewell said in a press statement. “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. As we experience record domestic oil and gas development, we are also working to ensure that America leads the world in developing the energy of the future.”

The Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory said that together these areas could support enough electricity to power more than 1 million homes.

The Department of the Interior said nine companies will be eligible to participate. The list does not include the Martha’s Vineyard Offshore Wind Alliance (MVOWA), a collaboration between Vineyard Power, an Island based energy cooperative, and OffshoreMW, a commercial wind energy developer.

Reached by telephone at his Edgartown home Wednesday, Vineyard Power board chairman Paul Pimentel said Vineyard Power has bid on a separate area not now under consideration known as the Mass Wind Area.

The initial steps to develop commercial wind energy on the outer continental shelf off the shores of Massachusetts and Rhode Island began in August 2011 when former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar invited developers to identify locations within an offshore area where they would seek commercial leases for developing wind energy projects.