White House Assessing Interest in Floating Wind Farms Off the Coast of Maine
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Thursday unveiled a new phase in its push to expand offshore wind energy development, publishing not one but two requests for comment from anyone interested in the concept of building floating wind farms along Maine’s Atlantic coast.
The request for comment was made through the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and it specifically seeks to gauge the interest of local tribes, ocean users and commercial entities in the development of floating wind farms.
The area being considered for this activity consists of about 14 million acres of federal waters in an area known as the Gulf of Maine.
The requests for comment published in the Federal Register are the first step towards a potential lease sale that the bureau is hoping to hold in 2024. They include a Request for Interest and a Request for Competitive Interest.
“President Biden has set ambitious goals to address the climate crisis, and in response the Interior Department is taking historic steps to develop a robust and sustainable clean energy future,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in a statement posted on the Bureau’s website.
“Today’s announcement for the Gulf of Maine represents one of the many milestones that this administration has achieved to advance offshore wind development, create good-paying jobs, and lower consumer energy costs, while collaborating with our government partners, tribes and key stakeholders to protect biodiversity, advance environmental justice and safeguard other ocean uses,” she said.
Over the past year, the administration has approved and celebrated the groundbreaking of the nation’s first two commercial-scale offshore wind projects in federal waters.
By 2025, the Interior Department plans to hold up to five additional offshore lease sales and complete the review of at least 16 plans to construct and operate commercial, offshore wind energy facilities, which would represent more than 22 GW of clean energy for the nation.
In addition, administration officials said the recently signed Inflation Reduction Act will result in an unprecedented expansion of clean energy deployment and manufacturing of more than 120,000 wind turbines.
The first of the Bureau’s two requests for comment represents the first step in identifying the offshore locations that appear most suitable for development, taking into consideration potential impacts to other resources and ocean users.
The second request for comment is the necessary step in the processing of the state of Maine’s application for a research lease and provides notice of the proposed research area that Maine requested.
The state’s application requests 9,700 acres on the Outer Continental Shelf more than 20 nautical miles off the Maine coast.
If developed, the research array would comprise up to 12 floating offshore wind turbines capable of generating up to 144 MW of renewable energy. BOEM invites submission of indications of commercial interest, as well as comments from interested and affected parties.
If the Bureau does not receive any indications of competitive interest for a lease in response to the notice, it will move forward with the research application.
However, if one or more indications of competitive interest from qualified entities are submitted, the Bureau may decide to move forward with the lease issuance process using competitive leasing procedures.
To date, the Bureau said, it has invested $80 million to collect baseline information in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Maine.
More information, including maps of the RFI and RFCI areas and how to comment, can be found on the Bureau’s Gulf of Maine webpage.
“As we work to spur offshore wind development and deploy floating offshore wind technology nationwide, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management recognizes the rich cultural heritage and ecological importance of the Gulf of Maine region, which is why we are using the best available science and traditional knowledge from ocean users and other stakeholders in our planning and leasing process,” said Amanda Lefton, the agency’s director, in a written statement.
“We are committed to a transparent, inclusive and data-driven process that avoids or minimizes potential conflicts with marine life and ensures all ocean users flourish.”