Rhode Island and Massachusetts have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) which says that the states will work together to coordinate the development of offshore wind projects in Rhode Island Sound. The development of this wind project will take place in federal waters in a 400 square mile area which starts 12 miles southwest of Martha’s Vineyard and extends 20 miles westward into Rhode Island Sound. The states will be leasing the project through the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE), formerly known as Minerals Management Service (MMS).
The project will be managed through a Special Area Mapping Plan (SAMP) which the states developed together. The SAMP will serve as a federally recognized coastal management and regulatory tool, and will help determine the ideal locations for offshore wind projects in state and federal waters. In addition, the two states will develop an economic development study to identify the costs and benefits of offshore wind development in the project area.
Rhode Island has largely had the lead on developing the project, but the MOU creates a formal stakeholder relationship for the Bay State. As the project lead, Rhode Island has chosen Deepwater Wind as it’s preferred developer. Deepwater Wind has proposed to construct a pilot installation in state waters near Block Island.
Both states are also working on separate plans to develop wind projects inside state waters, although those plans face hurdles from local groups. These projects will not be governed by or halted through the MOU.
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.