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Gulf Of Maine – The Biden and Harris administration have pledged to install 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030. Now, the Department of the Interior revealed that the Gulf of Maine may be the new hotspot for establishing wind power. The first step towards energy development within that area requires a formal Request for Interest and a Request for Competitive Interest. The two requests have already been proposed. Such queries are necessary in order to indicate commercial wind developers’ interest in northern New England waters. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management claims that these procedures will allow identification of offshore locations most suitable for the wind power industry.
BOEM Director Amanda Lefton has acknowledged the government agency’s recognition of the ecological importance of the Gulf of Maine. As quoted in a press release from the U.S. Department of the Interior, Lefton states that they are:
“using the best available science and traditional knowledge from ocean users and other stakeholders in our planning and leasing process” with a commitment to using “transparent, inclusive, and data-drive processes that avoid or minimize potential conflicts with marine life”
Insight from stakeholders and the wind, fishing, and shipping business will be utilized to narrow the region that would be considered applicable for offshore wind development. Through the Request for Interest, the BOEM will also seek feedback from Tribes and other ocean users. Currently, the query covers over 13.7 million acres of United States’ waters.
The Request for Competitive Interest would provide notice of the inquired research area which Maine has requested. The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act requires the BOEM to decide if competitive interest resides in the region which is subjected to a lease request. If the BOEM determines that no such interest exists, then the research application will move along in the process.
The BOEM is funding multiple priority studies to obtain any records regarding potential commercial leasing and development amongst the Gulf of Maine. The agency has spent nearly $80 million to collect information on the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Maine. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science will work with BOEM to develop ecosystem-based models which will identify leased areas.
Within the past year, the presidential administration has already approved two commercial-scale, offshore wind projects; these are the first of such undertakings among federal waters. By 2025, the Interior Department anticipates forming five more offshore lease sales and construct at least 16 commercial, offshore wind energy facilities. These developments would constitute over 22 gigawatts of clean energy.
However, the wind development in the Gulf of Maine would be built around floating wind turbines. Instead of resting on monopile foundations, deep water floating turbines will be secured by cables to anchors, creating a large environmental footprint. In 2020, the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance issued a petition to New England governors and policymakers to slow down the planning of floating wind mechanisms in the gulf. The organization has stated that with the expansive amount of anchoring and cabling, “lease areas will become de facto closures to fishing”.
The recently signed Inflation Reduction Act plans to take a stab at lowering energy costs by hundreds of dollars each year for families. The Act is expected to create profitable jobs and expand clean energy by manufacturing more than 120,000 wind turbines across the nation.
The state of Maine and research partners are inquiring for a 9,700-acre lease that would be more than 20 nautical miles offshore. There, a turbine development with up to 12 machines generating approximately 144 megawatts is foreseen. The RFCI Area of 68,320 acres expands on Maine’s proposed research lease area to authorize future siting flexibility and to avoid conflicts with existing ocean users. A project the size of Maine’s research lease inquiry consisting of conceptual research priorities will therefore have the ability to progress onwards.