Posted on October 23, 2023
The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) identified a draft wind energy area (WEA) in the Gulf of Maine, opening a 30-day public review and comment period.
The draft WEA covers about 3,519,067 acres offshore Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, ranging from about 23 to 120 miles off the coast.
BOEM says, “The Gulf of Maine has significant opportunities for offshore wind energy development, which will create good-paying jobs and new economic activity. Due to the deep waters within the Gulf of Maine, these areas are also an opportunity to accelerate US leadership in floating technologies.”
Since the start of the Biden-Harris administration, BOEM has approved the nation’s first four commercial scale offshore wind projects, held four offshore wind lease auctions, initiated environmental review of 10 offshore wind projects, and advanced the process to explore additional wind energy areas in Oregon, Gulf of Maine and Central Atlantic.
The draft WEA announced Oct. 19 has a capacity of more than 40 GW, which exceeds the current combined offshore wind energy planning goals for the Gulf of Maine states: 10 GW for Massachusetts and 3 GW for Maine. Future adjustments to the draft WEA will likely be made after incorporating feedback during the comment period, while striving to retain sufficient area to meet the Gulf of Maine states’ planning goals.
To identify the draft WEA, BOEM worked collaboratively with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science to develop an ocean planning model that identifies and minimizes conflicts with coastal and marine resources and ocean users. BOEM also met with and incorporated feedback from Tribes, fishers, and the public to refine the model and inform the potential offshore locations that appear most suitable for floating offshore wind energy development.
The draft WEA avoids Lobster Management Area 1 and all North Atlantic Right Whale Restricted Areas. The draft WEA also avoids other important fishing areas and habitats, including important groundfish areas east of the Western Gulf of Maine Closure and within the 10-km buffer from Georges Bank, Platts Bank, Parker Ridge and Three Dory Ridge.
In response to initial conversations with Tribal Nations located within Maine, the draft WEA strives to avoid a majority of the historic and present fishing grounds of those Tribes. BOEM will continue to consult with all Tribal Nations and other stakeholders who have an interest in the region to understand their concerns with potential offshore wind energy development and minimize conflicts.
BOEM also seeks comments on whether to add all or parts of three secondary areas that were identified for additional analysis but not part of the Draft WEA.
During the 30-day public comment period starting on Oct. 19, BOEM will hold a series of public meetings to outline data and information used to inform the draft WEA and to discuss next steps. BOEM will accept comments through 11:59 pm ET on Nov. 20, 2023.