BOSTON — Federal regulators on Friday said they’re seeking offshore wind developers who want to build inside a newly redrawn zone of ocean off Massachusetts, which they pitched as a prime spot for wind farms.
Regulators had originally proposed opening up a larger area south of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. But after objections, including from commercial fishermen whose businesses would be affected by fields of turbines, they cut the area by more than half, to about 850,000 acres.
On Friday, they announced the redrawn boundaries in a press event inside a massive wind turbine test facility in Boston’s Charlestown neighborhood.
Offshore wind is stalled in the U.S., which doesn’t yet produce a watt of energy from it. But the hope Friday was the new wind energy zone off Massachusetts can be a catalyst for the local industry.
“We know the offshore revolution for wind is going to begin right here,” said Barbara Kates-Garnick, the state’s Energy Undersecretary.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is beginning an environmental review of the area, similar to one just completed in the mid-Atlantic states. It hopes that by next year, it can award interested developers exclusive rights to build inside different areas of the zone. That can help projects attract financing and ultimately speed up growth of a new offshore industry, said BOEM director Tommy Beaudreau.
Green energy officials have long talked about the potential in offshore wind, which blows strong enough off the Atlantic coast to power hundreds of millions of homes. But the wind is expensive to get at. Only one offshore project has won a federal lease, the Cape Wind project proposed for Nantucket Sound, and that took 10 years amid relentless opposition.
Friday’s announcement is part of broad federal effort to streamline the approval process for offshore wind.
Beaudreau said the idea, drawn from some lessons learned after Cape Wind, is to deal with potential obstacles now, “so we don’t run into problems down the road and disputes down the road that can really delay things.”
“Hopefully, what comes out of that process is less dispute and less conflict,” he said.
In 2010, regulators first proposed an area of Massachusetts for wind energy project. But they soon heard from fishermen who complained it encroached on their fishing grounds, as well as areas that had long been shut to them to protect various species.