Government streamlining of leases for Rhode Island and Massachusetts and changing market conditions in Texas are breathing new life into offshore wind projects in those states.
On Aug. 18, Winchester, Mass.-based Neptune Wind announced it plans to develop, construct and operate a 500-MW wind farm about 20 nautical miles south of the Massachusetts-Rhode Island border. The announcement came a day after U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Michael R. Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), began the offshore leasing process for a 286-sq-mile sector off the Rhode Island and Massachusetts coasts. The process is part of the federal government's plan to fast-track offshore wind development in several coastal states.
Neptune, however, may have to compete with Providence, R.I.-based Deepwater Wind for the federal land. In December 2010, Deepwater Wind proposed a 1,000-MW wind farm that would overlap with parts of Neptune's proposed wind farm.
The Neptune project, named Normans Wind, would use offshore wind turbines designed to withstand southern New England's strong winds, according to an Aug. 18 statement from the firm. The statement also said, “Water depths range from 20 to 40 meters, requiring the use of a jacket structure foundation that can withstand harsh marine conditions.”
The first leases for the Rhode Island and Massachusetts wind farms could be issued by BOEMRE as early as next year. Neptune Wind has already qualified with BOEMRE as a commercial energy leaseholder on the Outer Continental Shelf and said it plans to submit a proposal for the Normans Wind lease area by Oct. 3, the deadline established by BOEMRE.
The company says it plans to use a new portside facility in New Bedford, Mass., for some of its manufacturing and construction operations, but it is also exploring port and other facilities at Quonset Point, R.I. Neptune did not respond to queries regarding its progress on land-based facilities or the wind farm or whether it has hired any contractors.
Texas has issued eight leases for offshore wind development since 2005, although not a single turbine has been installed to date. However, that could be changing.
Activity in the Gulf
Lafayette, La.-based Coastal Point Energy says it is ready to launch its first offshore wind turbine off Galveston, Texas, later this year. The region has a fleet of vessels to build the new infrastructure.
“You look at offshore wind and how it can be built and maintained … you have an awful lot of latent skills here that can be used to make offshore wind much more cost-effective,” says Mark Leyland, senior vice president at Baryonyx for wind energy projects.