Wind Energy Developers Snap Up Offshore Leases

A renewable-energy rush off New England.

Whirling wind turbines will soon rise from the sea in federal waters off the New England coast. At the end of July the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management held the first-ever competitive lease sale for renewable energy on the outer continental shelf, 10 miles off the shores of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. (Unlike some highly controversial wind projects proposed in state waters, these turbines, farther from shore, will be less visible.) “It marks a major milestone toward achieving President Obama’s renewable energy goals,” says Walter Cruickshank, BOEM deputy director.

After the agency’s environmental review concluded that there would be no significant impact on wildlife, including birds, fish, marine mammals, and sea turtles, the government auctioned off 164,750 acres in two blocks. Together they could generate 3.4 gigawatts of electricity—enough to supply more than a million homes for a year, according to the Department of Energy. Bid winners will have six months to submit their site-assessment plans, and then up to four and a half years to submit construction plans. Once the turbines start spinning, they’ll be permitted to operate for 25 years. With the region’s relatively high energy costs and strong offshore winds, says Cruickshank, the area is an ideal spot to develop wind energy. Lease sales in federal waters off other Atlantic states are on the horizon.

This story originally ran in the September-October 2013 issue as "Second Wind."