This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

January 21, 2009

Offshore Wind Power Moves Ahead in Massachusetts and Rhode Island

Photo of a row of wind turbines rising from the ocean.

Although the United States is a leader in wind power technology, it does not yet have an offshore wind plant such as this one, which is located off the coast of Arklow, Ireland.
Credit: GE Energy, ©2004, General Electric Company

The U.S. Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service (MMS) has published a favorable environmental review of the proposed 420-megawatt Cape Wind offshore wind project, opening the door for the agency to grant a lease for the project. The proposed project would be located in federal waters in Nantucket Sound, off the coast of Massachusetts. The MMS released its Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the project on January 16. The FEIS found significant benefits from the construction of the Cape Wind offshore wind energy project and identified no major environmental impacts from the project. The MMS also noted that the proposed location is superior to alternative sites, that the project will generate jobs and support businesses in New England, that it will help Massachusetts to meet its renewable energy requirements, and that it will significantly reduce regional emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants.

According to Cape Wind, the MMS Record of Decision on granting a lease to the company could come within 30 days of the FEIS release. The company earned approval from the Massachusetts Energy Facilities Siting Board back in 2005, and won additional approval from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs in 2007. Cape Wind officials hope to complete the permitting process by March, allowing construction to finally begin. When complete, the Cape Wind project is expected to supply 75% of the electricity needs of Cape Cod and its neighboring islands. See the project overview and press release from Cape Wind, and the FEIS from the MMS.

Offshore wind power is also making progress in Rhode Island, as the state has signed a joint development agreement with Deepwater Wind Rhode Island, LLC to develop wind power facilities off the state's coast. Under the agreement, the state will identify a number of approved sites for offshore wind power, and Deepwater Wind will be first in line to select one of those sites for development. The company plans to initially build a 20-megawatt facility in state waters, with construction starting in late 2010 and finishing in June 2012. The company will then pursue a lease from the MMS to build a facility in federal waters that can generate enough electricity each year to meet 15% of the state's power needs. That project is expected to cost more than $1.5 billion. As part of the agreement, Deepwater Wind will build a facility in Quonset to manufacture the wind turbine support structures and related parts. See the press release from Rhode Island Governor Richard Carcieri.