USA: MassCEC Announces Studies to Help Facilitate Offshore Wind Projects

USA: MassCEC Announces Studies to Help Facilitate Offshore Wind Projects

As part of the Patrick Administration’s efforts to support the development of an offshore wind industry hub in Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) has announced the preliminary results of a multi-year study of marine wildlife and launched an effort to study the logistics of interconnecting offshore wind to the New England power grid.

Both studies are aimed at ensuring that offshore wind projects are responsibly sited and planned while positioning the Commonwealth to benefit from the 43,000 clean energy jobs the U.S. Department of Energy estimates will be created in the offshore wind industry nationally by 2030.

“Offshore wind presents a significant resource of clean, renewable energy for us to harness here in Massachusetts,” said MassCEC CEO Alicia Barton. “By taking these proactive steps now, we can position the Commonwealth to realize significant job benefits of the burgeoning offshore wind industry.”

The results released today reflect the first year of a multi-year marine wildlife study sponsored by MassCEC in partnership with the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), and conducted by the New England Aquarium and the Cornell University Bioacoustics Laboratory.

“The Aquarium is excited to be leading marine wildlife surveys of the waters south of Martha’s Vineyard for large whales, dolphins, and sea turtles,” said New England Aquarium President and CEO Bud Ris. “The data from the first year of aerial and acoustic monitoring will help provide a beginning baseline to determine how conflicts between offshore wind development and marine life can be minimized or avoided all together. While additional data will be necessary to inform management decisions, the completion of the first year survey is a terrific first step.”

The first year’s data was gleaned from 24 aerial surveys and 11 months of continuous underwater acoustic recording to count and assess the presence of large whales and sea turtles in areas off the southern coast of Martha’s Vineyard that have previously been designated by the federal government as possible sites for offshore wind development.

During the first year, researchers counted six species of whales and three species of sea turtles. North Atlantic Right whales were spotted 24 times, with four additional probable sightings.

Researchers are currently gathering a second year of data that will be combined with first year results to assess the location and configuration of future offshore wind energy development and inform and streamline the permitting process for potential projects in federal waters south of Martha’s Vineyard.

A full copy of the preliminary report can be found here.

In addition to releasing the initial results of the marine wildlife study, MassCEC is requesting proposals to help to identify optimal locations and configurations for the transmission of renewable energy from the offshore wind planning areas to the regional electric grid.

This study will touch on several facets of the transmission process, including specific transmission system configuration options, the technical feasibility of those options and potential interconnection points and associated infrastructure upgrade requirements.

The transmission siting effort is a key element in the update of the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan, being led and managed by the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs’ Office of Coastal Zone Management.

A copy of the request for proposals can be found here.

The wildlife and transmission study projects build upon the Patrick Administration’s efforts to position Massachusetts as a hub for the emerging U.S. offshore wind industry. These efforts also include the construction of the Marine Commerce Terminal in New Bedford, the first facility in the nation designed to support the construction, assembly, and deployment of offshore wind projects.

Offshore wind represents the largest potential new energy source for Massachusetts and for much of the East Coast. By some estimates, Massachusetts’ offshore wind resources could power close to half of the households in Massachusetts with clean, reliable energy. The development of offshore wind projects in the Commonwealth can create Massachusetts made energy and thousands of new jobs.

Governor Patrick has set the ambitious but achievable goal of reaching 2,000 megawatts of wind energy in Massachusetts by 2020, with most of that coming from offshore wind. This goal is part of Governor Patrick’s nation-leading support for clean energy policies aimed at reducing reliance on foreign sources of energy, cutting energy costs and use, and reducing harmful greenhouse gas emissions.


Press release, December 24, 2013; Image: Siemens