Are Tailwinds Ahead for Offshore Wind in Gulf of Maine?

On March 15, 2024, Maine’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced its final designation of a Wind Energy Area (WEA) in the Gulf of Maine. The finalized WEA (a map of which can be found here) encompasses roughly two million acres off the coasts of Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire, and can support up to 32 GW of generation. The final WEA’s size has been reduced 80% from the area BOEM initially identified for possible leasing, and 43% from the draft WEA (issued in October 2023), to avoid various fisheries and animal habitats identified by states, tribes, ocean users and other stakeholders that BOEM coordinated with in preparation of the WEA. BOEM published a notice in the Federal Register on March 18th, stating its intent to prepare an environmental impact study regarding the WEA; a 30-day public comment period is open until April 17th. Based on a timeline provided by BOEM, the current goal is to hold an auction for commercial offshore development in Q3 or Q4 of 2024. If a lease is issued during any subsequent auction process, the environmental impacts of potential projects will be assessed to determine whether the lease will be able to move forward as proposed or what, if any, alternatives should be considered.  

Since early 2021, the Department of the Interior has approved eight commercial-scale offshore wind energy projects, several of which are in the Mid-Atlantic/Northeast, including the recently approved New England Wind project off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Thus far, BOEM has held four offshore wind lease auctions (attracting nearly $5.5 billion in high bids) and is exploring additional opportunities for domestic offshore wind energy development offerings, including along the Central Atlantic coast. The Gulf of Maine is of particular interest for the development of offshore wind given its steady and strong winds that would create ideal conditions for generation. The proximity of multiple ports and/or harbors, in Massachusetts, Maine, and/or New Hampshire also make this region a perfect fit for this industry.

Offshore wind has been a slow developing industry here in the U.S., but President Biden’s commitment to the administration’s renewable energy goals has been bolstered by the provision of certain tax credits in the IRA and, recently in the Action Plan for Offshore Wind Transmission Development in the U.S. Atlantic Region.[1] This Action Plan lays out actionable and recommended steps to reach the goal of 30 GW of offshore wind by 2030, and 15 GW of floating offshore wind by 2035. The Gulf of Maine and the Northeast in general are prime locations for the ongoing development of the offshore wind industry to mirror the commitment to other sources of renewable energy.

If you have questions about offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine, please contact Grayson Shephard, Chuck Willing, Maria Law or any member of Rath, Young and Pignatelli’s Energy Practice Group.