Article originally appears in CommonWealth

Edward N. Krapels, Sep 22, 2019

THE INTERIOR DEPARTMENT’S Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, the agency that issues permits for offshore wind projects in federal waters, has called a timeout on the rapidly expanding offshore wind industry in the US. The bureaucratic delay poses an unwelcome challenge for the Vineyard Wind project, the wider offshore wind industry, and states depending on offshore wind to address the threat of climate change. The delay also invites an important question: What is the most rational, far-reaching approach to develop the massive source of renewable energy off New England’s coast and beyond?

Massachusetts and other northeastern states plan to rely on offshore wind to meet most of their renewable power objectives in the next decade. The development of up to 30,000 megawatts (enough to provide power to more than 15 million homes) in the Atlantic will require the largest expansion of the North American transmission grid in decades. At this scale, this new development of electric transmission is infrastructure, similar in scope and size to highways and bridges.

As infrastructure such a large project must be carefully planned. Connecting offshore power projects to onshore connection points will entail laying thousands of miles of cables undersea and underground.  This will disrupt the fishing industry, impact coastal towns, and affect sensitive environmental areas. A great effort is required to avoid, minimize, and mitigate adverse impacts and fairly compensate those affected.

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