The Department of the Interior and its Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement (BOEMRE) last week invited offshore wind developers to identify locations on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore Rhode Island and Massachusetts for the development of wind projects.

Along with the Call for Information and Nominations, BOEMRE also said it was seeking public comment—through a Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Assessment—on important environmental issues and alternatives related to the proposed leasing, site characterization, and assessment activities offshore in New England.

DOI Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement that the measures reflected “forward-thinking planning” needed to “stand up an American offshore wind industry.” He said that by focusing on priority areas with high wind potential and fewer conflicts and conducting early, coordinated reviews, the DOI can accelerate the leasing process and drive investment, development, and jobs to Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

The measures are part of the DOI’s “Smart from the Start” offshore wind initiative, which seeks to make the process of developing offshore wind power quicker and more efficient by improving coordination with state, local and federal partners, identifying and refining priority areas for potential development and conducting early environmental reviews.

The DOI has so far identified four wind energy areas offshore Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia, and BOEMRE expects to begin the commercial leasing process in those states as early as 2012. The federal agency said that new wind energy areas will also be identified soon in additional states, such as North Carolina.

The DOI-designated area (map) related to the Call for Information and Nominations is within an Area of Mutual Interest (AMI) identified by the state of Rhode Island and Massachusetts in a landmark agreement in July 2010. “The Call area was subsequently identified through consultation with BOEMRE’s Rhode Island and Massachusetts Renewable Energy Task Forces, which include federal, state, and tribal government partners, and using information gathered by the State of Rhode Island in its Special Area Management Plan for the AMI,” the DOI said. “Both BOEMRE and state officials gathered stakeholder input before finalizing the Call area.”

Sources: POWERnews, DOI