• Federal Offshore Wind Auction Held for Sites Off Massachusetts
  • March 27, 2015 | Author: Todd J. Griset
  • Law Firm: Preti, Flaherty, Beliveau & Pachios, LLP - Portland Office
  • Federal ocean energy managers have concluded an auction to lease over 350,000 acres off the Massachusetts coast to prepare for offshore wind development. Of the four parcels up for bid in today's auction, one was provisionally awarded to RES America Developments, Inc. and another to Offshore MW LLC. Two other parcels failed to attract any bids.

    In today's auction conducted by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), RES America Developments, Inc. provisionally won the rights to Lease OCS-A 0500 (187,523 acres) after two rounds of bidding, with a winning bid of $281,285. Offshore MW LLC provisionally won the rights to Lease OCS-A 0501 (166,886 acres) after two rounds of bidding, with a winning bid of $166,886. These winning bids are significantly below those that were required to win previous federal competitive lease sales for offshore wind sites.

    While today's lease awards are a step forward for U.S. offshore wind, neither lease awarded today grants the right to construct or operate an offshore wind project. Rather, these leases have a preliminary term of one year, to allow the lessee time to prepare a Site Assessment Plan describing the installation of meteorological towers and buoys and other activities the lessee plans to perform to assess local wind resources and ocean conditions. Site Assessment Plans must be submitted to BOEM for review and approval.

    Once BOEM approves a Site Assessment Plan, the lessee will then have up to five years in which to prepare and submit to BOEM a Construction and Operations Plan (COP) providing detailed information for the construction and operation of a wind energy project on the lease. After BOEM receives a Construction and Operations Plan from a lessee, BOEM will conduct an environmental review of and public comment period for the proposed project. If BOEM approves a Construction and Operations Plan, the lessee will have an operations term of 25 years.

    Lease OCS-A 0502 (248,015 acres) and Lease OCS-A 0503 (140,554 acres) did not receive bids in today's auction. As shown on a BOEM nautical chart of the Massachusetts Wind Energy Area, these lease areas are generally farther from the Massachusetts coast than the areas awarded through today's auction.

    BOEM touts its offshore wind leasing program as part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. The auction held today by BOEM represents the nation’s fourth competitive lease sale for renewable energy sites in federal waters. Including this auction, competitive lease sales have generated more than $14.5 million in high bids for more than 700,000 acres in federal waters. Previous auctions covered sites off Rhode Island and Massachusetts, Virginia, and Maryland. BOEM expects to hold another competitive lease sale offshore the New Jersey coast in 2015.