NE4OSW Supports Responsibly Sited Offshore Wind in the Gulf of Maine

Jennifer Delony, New England for Offshore Wind, 603.320.7043

NE4OSW Supports Responsibly Sited Offshore Wind in the Gulf of Maine
Coalition Urges BOEM to Pursue Data, Research Needed for Responsible Development 

PORTSMOUTH, N.H. – October 7, 2022 – The New England for Offshore Wind coalition told the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) this week that they support leasing for offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) that relies on data and research. 

“Leasing for offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine will be critical to the New England states’ ability to achieve their nation-leading climate and clean energy policies,” said Susannah Hatch, New England for Offshore Wind Regional Lead. “With a vibrant ecosystem that supports countless wildlife species and local economies, getting it right and ensuring responsible development that minimizes impacts is of utmost importance. We support Maine’s phased approach to offshore wind, which includes the proposed research array, to ensure that robust research and critical data creates a baseline for understanding the effects of floating offshore wind to inform commercial development in the Gulf of Maine.” 

In comments to BOEM for its request for competitive interest (RFCI) in a Gulf of Maine OCS research lease, the coalition provided the agency with detailed information about research priorities and the associated justifications needed to advance floating offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine and other areas of the OCS.  

The coalition urged BOEM to pursue the data and research needed to balance renewable energy development in the Gulf of Maine with preservation of valuable natural resources. They said the state can achieve that balance with Maine’s deliberate step-wise strategy for offshore wind development, which includes research on and demonstration of floating wind technologies. 

As proposed, the “research array is a critical step in understanding how a multi-turbine array will interact with the ocean environment and existing uses – providing crucial data for pursuing the commercial-scale floating offshore wind New England states need to meet our collective climate and clean energy requirements while minimizing impacts and ensuring that the benefits are shared broadly,” they said in comments. 

Achieving balanced development for the region is only possible if BOEM and other federal, state, and private actors gather the critical data needed to better inform offshore wind development and operations, according to the commenters. 

“The proposed research array will play a large part in closing critical gaps,” they said in comments. “BOEM and other federal, state, and private actors should also collect additional data across the Gulf of Maine as soon as possible to advise environmentally sound siting and create a baseline for evaluating effects of offshore wind over time. That baseline will put New England in the best position to lead the nation in responsible floating offshore wind development.” 

Commercial Leasing Comments 

The coalition members urged BOEM to close critical data gaps for areas in the Gulf of Maine with the highest potential environmental and wildlife conflict to inform the location of commercial leasing areas. 

In comments to BOEM for its RFI in Commercial Leasing for Wind Energy Development on the Gulf of Maine OCS, the coalition said the Gulf of Maine is “data poor.”  

They called for BOEM to secure:  

  • hydrographic quality multibeam echosounder data to improve bathymetry and seafloor hardness information, sediment sampling, and benthic fauna characterization to improve seafloor habitat characterization;
  • coordinated below and above water ecological baseline monitoring studies; and
  • tracking studies on Endangered Species Act-listed species, as well as species that are especially vulnerable to impacts from offshore wind energy development. 

The coalition urged BOEM, in selecting Gulf of Maine offshore wind Call Areas, to use environmental and social spatial data to identify the areas with optimal energy potential with lower environmental impacts. They also recommended that BOEM work with industry and stakeholders to develop mitigation strategies for species already in decline and at risk for impacts from offshore wind. 

As BOEM works to provide an equitable engagement for the leasing process, the coalition said the agency must do more to ensure the engagement of disadvantaged communities and consultation of tribal nations negatively affected by past energy and industrial operations. 

“We believe that BOEM must make the commercial leasing process transparent and provide stakeholders with clear information about what data BOEM uses for making siting decisions, what scientific studies the agency intends to conduct, and any changes BOEM makes in its timeline,” Hatch said. “If BOEM makes that commitment, it will build on the already important steps it has taken to enhance transparency, modeling, and public engagement in the wind energy area identification process.” 

The coalition also urged BOEM to make the lease areas under consideration as large as possible while avoiding or minimizing key areas of conflict to ensure responsibly developed offshore wind and transmission can address historical environmental justice issues through project labor or community benefit agreements that create family-sustaining jobs. 

About New England for Offshore Wind 

New England for Offshore Wind is a broad-based coalition of businesses and associations, environmental and justice organizations, academic institutions, and labor unions committed to combatting climate change by increasing the supply of clean energy to our regional grid through more procurements of responsibly developed offshore wind. We believe that responsibly developed offshore wind is the single biggest lever we can pull to address the climate crisis while also strengthening our regional economy, protecting ratepayers, creating high quality jobs, and improving public health by reducing pollution.