Forests cover 60% of our state and play a crucial role in solving the climate crisis. Mass Audubon recently worked with other members of the Massachusetts Forest Forum to draft a statement about the need to prioritize forest conservation.
The 804-megawatt Mayflower Wind proposal has been selected as the next offshore wind project to move forward in Massachusetts. When combined with the already-approved Vineyard Wind proposal, the two projects would meet the state’s current 1600-megawatt goal for offshore wind power.
Maintaining Protections for Coastal Ecosystems
Mass Audubon signed on to a letter with our partners opposing state legislation to exempt coastal resiliency projects from critical environmental protections. As currently written, the bill would negatively impact wetlands and other natural resources.
Mass Audubon is an event partner and speaker at this month’s Offshore WINDPOWER Conference in Boston. Momentum for offshore wind in the US is building, and this year’s event will feature sessions on ensuring its long-term success and reducing costs.
Sponsored by the American Wind Energy Association, this conference is the largest gathering of offshore wind energy professionals in the United States. This year’s conference is October 22-23. Interested in attending? Register today!
The heatwaves we’ve been experiencing this summer are a good
excuse to get to the beach, but they’re also a reminder that we’re already
starting to experience the impacts of climate change. One of Mass Audubon’s top
climate change mitigation priorities is the responsible
development and use of offshore wind, which could bring more than 4
gigawatts of clean, renewable energy to Massachusetts.
Offshore wind is a critical component to US emissions reduction and has the potential to create thousands of jobs. But we need to make sure the industry grows responsibly, and set clear guidelines for minimizing environmental impacts.
Harnessing the Wind: How to Advance Wind Power Offshore, is a new resource produced by the Natural Resources Defense Council in collaboration with Mass Audubon and other partner groups. This guide outlines how we can tap into US offshore wind potential in a way that’s also protective of ocean life, and identifies the top challenges, along with proposed actions, toward accomplishing that goal.
Whether it’s placing projects outside of sensitive habitat
areas or reducing underwater noise, taking these measures up-front will ensure
the offshore wind industry continues to grow in a way that works for wildlife,
people, and the planet.
Mass Audubon’s top climate change mitigation priority is the responsible development and use of offshore wind, which could bring more than 4 gigawatts of clean, renewable energy to Massachusetts. We’ve been participating in the public review process for this growing industry, the leading project for which is currently Vineyard Wind. When built, this 800 megawatt project is expected to provide enough electricity to power approximately 400,000 homes, while removing approximately 2 million tons of carbon emissions from the air.
other projects are also on the horizon, and three additional federal leases off
Massachusetts were recently
granted in a record-breaking auction.
week, we weighed in on the latest stages in the Vineyard Wind permitting
process. This project would be located in federal waters, with transmission
cables crossing Massachusetts waters and connecting to a landfall on Cape Cod.
That means it has to go through both federal and state reviews.
First, we submitted comments with our conservation partners to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) on the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement. At a time when offshore wind is growing with unprecedented momentum, it’s crucial that BOEM ensures projects take measures to protect species like the highly endangered North Atlantic right whale and federally-protected birds.
We also submitted separate comments, again with partners, to the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. These comments focused on the Final Environmental Impact Report for Vineyard Wind’s land-based transmission cable, which also takes into account the project’s overall impact on Massachusetts. We recommended that the project follow a proposed route that would limit impacts to fish spawning areas, horseshoe crabs, and other benthic resources, and that it address the full range of potential impacts on all bird species known to forage and rest in or near the project area.
As we expect to see up to seven wind energy projects over the next few years off the Massachusetts coast, it’s important to establish sound environmental review, and mitigation, practices now. Mass Audubon’s role in this process is to help ensure the industry grows in a way that will help reduce the worst effects of climate change, without negatively impacting wildlife.
U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has spoken out against wind energy on the grounds that it kills birds—but estimated bird deaths from wind turbines are small when compared to other human-caused sources of avian mortality, like building collisions. On top of that, climate change is by far the biggest threat to all birds living today. Of Massachusetts’ 143 breeding bird species evaluated by Mass Audubon, 43% are “highly vulnerable” to its effects.
That’s why Mass Audubon supports responsibly-sited wind projects to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. We can do this by increasing conservation and efficiency, and by producing clean energy. Wind energy is now among the most cost-effective, competitive, and reliable clean technologies available.
Photo credit: Ryan O’Sullivan
Any development of new energy sources is bound to have some impact on wildlife and their habitat, but Mass Audubon advocates for prospective offshore wind projects to be designed to avoid any significant environmental damage. Anticipated impacts need to be minimized and mitigated – that’s the sequence to success and the review standard to which all projects should be held. With appropriate design, siting and mitigation, the industry can grow as Massachusetts does its part to combat the impacts of global climate change.
Last week, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held their auction for three offshore wind leases in federal waters south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. The results were staggering – the winning bids from three companies totaled $405 million, which is nearly a tenfold increase from the most recent prior federal sale! The areas could support approximately 4.1 gigawatts of commercial wind generation, enough to power nearly 1.5 million homes. Federal officials and wind industry insiders alike were surprised by the sale – this Boston Globe article looks at how the event marks a decided shift for US offshore wind energy.
In other wind news, Mass Audubon will also be commenting on the latest stage of Vineyard Wind’s proposed offshore project later this month, on which BOEM will be holding public hearings.
Expansion of offshore wind here in the US will be critical in reducing emissions that contribute to climate change.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will hold the next Massachusetts offshore wind auction – to include nearly 390,000 acres – on December 13, 2018. Nineteen companies have qualified to participate in the auction. It’s estimated that this auction could support more 4.1 gigawatts of power to supply nearly 1.5 million homes. Mass Audubon plans to review and comment on any projects resulting from the lease.
Speaking at the American Wind Energy Association Offshore Wind Conference, DOI Secretary Zinke also announced the environmental review of a proposed wind project offshore Rhode Island, and the next steps to a first-ever wind auction in federal waters off of California.
While this is good news for the growth of renewable energy, the Trump administration also plans to ease Endangered Species Act regulations to speed up the approval process for offshore wind projects. Mass Audubon will be opposing that change – for offshore wind deployment to be done in a way that is safe for wildlife, a full understanding of the risks to species is needed.
Learn more about Mass Audubon’s recent involvement with the offshore wind public review process here.
Mass Audubon submitted comments to the US Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) on the latest stage of review for the proposed 800 MW Vineyard Wind project. The offshore wind facility would be located in federal waters, with transmission cables crossing Massachusetts waters and connecting to a landfall on Cape Cod.
To meet Massachusetts’ long term renewable energy goals, the state is seeking bids to procure 1,600 MW of offshore wind energy. Vineyard Wind is currently one of the three offshore wind energy projects competing for a contract in Massachusetts, and is the first to initiate a long and complicated state, federal, local, and regional permitting process.
Offshore wind is on the horizon for Massachusetts
Mass Audubon supports the responsible development of clean, renewable energy that reduces the worst effects of climate change. But, we also urge BOEM and project developers to operate under appropriate conditions to protect important habitats and the marine and bird species that utilize these areas. Read the letter here.
We also signed onto a group comment letter with partners including the Natural Resources Defense Council, National Wildlife Federation, and others
Vineyard Wind has also continued to move forward with state-level permitting, filing their draft Environmental Impact Report with the Commonwealth for the wind farm’s transmission cable to the land-based grid. We’ll be commenting on that process as well. The DEIR is available now on the project website, though the official comment period is not yet open.
We’ll be continuing to follow the development of this project and others proposed off the Massachusetts coast.
Proposed offshore wind leased areas off Massachusetts
Last year, Mass Audubon joined forces with National Wildlife Federation and other environmental organizations to ensure that a major new state energy law included a provision requiring the Commonwealth to purchase 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind over the next decade – enough energy to power over half a million homes.
This week, the state’s utilities sent a draft Request for Proposals (RFP) to state energy regulators, asking them to approve a bid process for companies vying for offshore wind contracts off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard. Mass Audubon is currently preparing comments to send to the Baker Administration in support of this historic process. We also participated in the review process for the offshore wind leasing area, in addition to serving on the state’s Offshore Wind Habitat Working Group. You can read our detailed comments on each step (Request for Interest; Call for Information; Environmental Assessment; and Proposed Sale Notice) in the federal offshore wind lease sale.
Photo credit: Kim Hansen
We need offshore wind to combat climate change, which remains the single largest threat to people and wildlife both in Massachusetts and worldwide. It’s time to turn Massachusetts’ commitment into a reality. The Baker Administration needs to hear from thousands of Commonwealth residents calling for large-scale, responsibly-sited offshore wind power to replace fossil fuel-fired power plants and put Massachusetts on track toward a clean energy future. Please let them know that you support offshore wind for Massachusetts by adding your name to this message from our environmental partners!