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BOEM Seeks Comments for Maine Offshore Wind Projects

Marine offshore wind farms
Researchers in Maine demonstrated a prototype for floating offshore wind turbines (New England Aqua Ventus)

Published Aug 18, 2022 7:15 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is taking the next step in the effort to build out the U.S. offshore wind energy sector. Under the Biden Administration, BOEM has moved aggressively to identify target areas and develop the leasing process for new offshore wind farms, including expansion of projects to the Pacific Coast and now the Gulf of Maine. After several years of research efforts and in support of an imitative in Maine, BOEM published two approaches, a Request for Interest and a Request for Competitive Interest, in the Federal Register for public comment.

The publication of these two requests for public comment is the first step in the process to define potential interest, lease areas, and ultimately laying the groundwork for specific projects. This phase is information and knowledge gathering to inform decision-making. BOEM says it has done extensive work to emphasize the use of science and has evolved its processes upon receiving stakeholder input to promote transparency before identifying wind energy areas for leasing that result in the least impact on other ocean users.

“Today’s announcement for the Gulf of Maine represents one of the many milestones that this Administration has achieved to advance offshore wind development,” said Secretary Deb Haaland. They noted that 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 gigawatts of clean energy for the nation.

The process being outlined for the Gulf of Maine is slightly different considering the unique nature of the topography. Maine will require the use of floating wind turbines, a technology that is currently being explored by several projects in the state. The state has made a request to BOEM for a research area that would be the next step in its development of floating wind turbine technology.

BOEM’s RFI is the first step in the commercial planning and leasing process to identify the offshore locations that appear most suitable for development, taking into consideration potential impacts on other resources and ocean users. The purpose of the RFI is to gauge interest in the development of commercial wind energy leases within the RFI Area, which consists of about 13,713,800 acres in the Gulf of Maine.

Through the RFI, BOEM seeks feedback from stakeholders and the industry, regarding the location and size of specific areas they wish to be included in (or excluded from) a future offshore wind energy lease sale. This information will be used to narrow the area to be considered for offshore wind development as BOEM moves forward with the Gulf of Maine planning and leasing process.

The RFCI is the next step in processing the State of Maine’s application for a research lease area that was requested by Maine. BOEM is issuing this RFCI because the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and implementing regulations require that BOEM determine whether competitive interest exists in any area that is the subject of an unsolicited lease request.?If BOEM does not receive any indications of competitive interest for a lease in response to this notice, BOEM will move forward with the research application. 

Maine’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 megawatts of renewable energy. 

The publication of these Federal Register notices on August 19, 2022, initiates two separate 45-day comment periods that will close on October 3, 2022.