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BOEM Green-Lights First Offshore Wind Farm in Federal Waters

Published May 11, 2021 3:46 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Biden administration's Interior Department has given its final approval for the construction of the first full-scale offshore wind farm in federal waters. 

The long-anticipated approval for the Vineyard Wind project brings years of debates and delays to an end, and it provides new regulatory certainty for the nascent U.S. offshore wind industry. In a statement, BOEM director Amanda Lefton pledged to continue to advance new projects in the pipeline with an "efficient and predictable process for industry and stakeholders." 

"Today’s Record of Decision is not about the start of a single project, but the launch of a new industry," said Vineyard Wind CEO Lars T. Pedersen. "Receiving this final major federal approval means the jobs, economic benefits and clean energy revolution associated with the Vineyard Wind 1 project can finally come to fruition.  It’s been a long road to get to this point, but ultimately, we are reaching the end of this process with the strongest possible project."

The department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is responsible for permitting reviews for offshore wind, oil and gas projects. Under the previous administration, it delayed and then suspended the permitting process for Vineyard Wind. In contrast to that administration's public objection to offshore wind development, the Biden White House has set a target to develop 30 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030 - up from less than one gigawatt today. 

The 800-megawatt, 62-turbine Vineyard Wind 1 development will be located about 12 nm off Martha's Vineyard and 12 nm off Nantucket. It will create an estimated 3,600 jobs and provide enough power for 400,000 homes and businesses, according to the Department of the Interior. The turbines will be installed in an east-west layout with a minimum spacing of one nautical mile, in line with USCG recommendations and a wind industry proposal on standardization. 

"This is a historic day for clean energy and for our country [which] has been over a decade in the making," said Heather Zichal, the head of the green energy industry association American Clean Power. "The Biden-Harris Administration, including the many talented career staff at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and other federal agencies who reviewed this project, deserve great credit for their years of work to enable this clean energy resource to finally come to America’s shores."

The National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), the voice of America's offshore oil, gas and renewable energy industries, also welcomed the decision. 

"An entire supply chain is ready to mobilize and get to work, providing Americans with thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of investment. American offshore wind is a generational opportunity, and its outlook is more certain with the Vineyard Wind Record of Decision," said NOIA President Erik Milito in a statement. "President Biden can continue this offshore wind momentum through the continued permitting of projects in the queue and the implementation a regular and predictable timeline of future lease opportunities."