The Alliance participated in the establishment of rules and regulations governing offshore wind energy development. When Cape Wind was first proposed in 2001, there was no leasing authority, federal planning or competitive bidding for wind sites in federal waters. In 2005, the Energy Policy Act established federal leasing and called for regulations to govern renewable energy, which were completed in 2009. The Alliance promoted marine spatial planning and the creation of development zones to ensure appropriate development as well as exclusion zones to protect the marine environment. In 2010, the federal government’s “Smart from the Start” initiative led to the identification of specific areas to minimize conflicts, offshore lease sales and the progress of projects like Vineyard Wind in sites less conflicted than Nantucket Sound.
Offshore wind energy areas in MA and RI
Based on a public process with stakeholder input, the federal government identified offshore Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) along the east coast that aim to minimize conflicts and be suitable for development. Five developers now hold leases offshore of Massachusetts and Rhode Island: Deepwater Wind (acquired by Orsted), Vineyard Wind, Baystate Wind, Equinor Wind and Mayflower Wind. The most recent auction in late 2018 led to record high lease prices of $135 million each.
In 2016, Massachusetts passed an energy bill called the “Massachusetts Energy Diversity Act” which included a mandate for Massachusetts utility companies to buy 1600 megawatts of electricity generated by offshore wind located more than 10 miles from shore. In 2017, the state chose Vineyard Wind’s proposal to build an 800-megawatt project. Vineyard Wind has received state approval and is expecting federal approval in 2020. In October 2019, Mayflower Wind’s 804-megawatt project was selected as the winning bidder for the second Massachusetts offshore wind project.