BOSTON, Mass. /Massachusetts Newswire/ — Governor Deval Patrick today announced an agreement with Rhode Island Governor Donald Carcieri to jointly explore the potential development of offshore wind energy in an area of federal waters adjacent to state waters of both Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates wind energy potential off the Atlantic coast at approximately 620,000 megawatts – enough emissions-free energy to meet the total electricity needs of the East Coast.

“In the wake of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill tragedy, it is more pressing than ever to make the most of the clean energy potential off our shores,” said Governor Patrick. “By working together, Governor Carcieri and I will make our states the hub of our nation’s offshore wind industry, creating hundreds of jobs and enjoying the environmental benefits of renewable energy.”

“The shared waters between Rhode Island and Massachusetts hold the key to the future of offshore wind developments along the East Coast and the country. It is in the best interest for both states to work together to expedite the federal permitting process through this collaborative effort,” said Governor Carcieri. “We share mutual interests in developing offshore wind projects, bringing greater economic development activity and economic security to the region. Working together, we ensure Rhode Island and Massachusetts will continue to lead the nation in offshore wind.”

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by both governors commits their states to coordinate and collaborate in potential development of offshore wind energy in a 400 square mile “area of mutual interest” beginning 12 miles southwest of Martha’s Vineyard and extending 20 miles westward into Rhode Island Sound. (For map, see attachment)

Since August 2008, Rhode Island has been engaged in planning for offshore wind development in adjacent federal waters under a Special Area Management Plan (SAMP), which is subject to approval by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The purpose of that process is to determine the best location for a commercial-scale wind energy installation backed by Rhode Island. Deepwater Wind has been designated as the Ocean State’s preferred developer, and has been proposed to construct a pilot installation in state waters near Block Island. Wind energy development in federal waters is under the authority of the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE), formerly known as Minerals Management Service.

The SAMP process has identified an area of federal waters that is as close to Massachusetts’s mainland and islands as it is to Rhode Island’s, and adjacent to Massachusetts state waters identified in the Massachusetts Ocean Plan as suitable for offshore wind development. Should the SAMP determine that this “Area of Mutual Interest” (AMI) is favorable for utility-scale wind energy development, today’s MOU ensures that any such project be approved by the governors of both states and that economic benefits be shared by both states on a fair and equitable basis before it can seek necessary federal approvals.

The MOU states that Massachusetts and Rhode Island will collaborate on an economic development study that identifies the costs and benefits of offshore wind development in the AMI. The MOU also preserves the authority of each state to apply state and local permitting laws to development in the AMI as applicable.

To ensure the input of Massachusetts citizens on Rhode Island’s SAMP process, the agreement requires Rhode Island officials to conduct at least two public meetings – one on Martha’s Vineyard and one in a community adjacent to Buzzard’s Bay, as well as a briefing of the Massachusetts Task Force on Offshore Renewable Energy. In addition, written comments from all interested parties will be accepted by the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council through September 24, 2010, at the address below. Public meeting dates and locations will be announced in the coming weeks.