WASHINGTON – The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will conduct a competitive lease sale next month for commercial wind energy development on more than 160,000 acres offshore Rhode Island and Massachusetts, the first of its kind for renewable energy sources in the nation, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced Tuesday.
The site, situated about 9 nautical miles south of the Rhode Island shore and roughly halfway between Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard, is the first designated Wind Energy Area in the federal government’s broader effort to develop offshore wind energy, a plan first announced in November 2010.
The area was first announced in a proposed sale notice in December, which was open to public comment.
The acres will be divided into two lease areas, constituting roughly 98,000 and 67,000 acres, and auctioned separately but simultaneously. Taken together, the lease areas have the potential to supply electricity to more than 1 million homes, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
The auction will entail a two-step process: a non-monetary phase beginning July 29 and a monetary phase July 31. Using a multiple-factor format, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will take into account a variety of considerations, including the agreements different bidders hold and the monetary bids they make. It will also conduct a mock auction.
The bureau conducted an environmental assessment on the site and concluded that commercial wind energy development would cause no significant negative effects to the environment.
“Today we are moving closer to tapping into the enormous potential offered by offshore wind to create jobs, increase our sustainability and strengthen our nation’s competitiveness in this new energy frontier,” Secretary of the Interior Sally M. R. Jewell said in a statement, describing the announcement as “history in the making.”
The final sale notice for the lease areas will be published in the Federal Register Wednesday, June 5.