Developers are lining up in Massachusetts to build a massive wind farm the size of Rhode Island that aims to produce 4,000 Megawatts of energy and power 1.7 million homes. The area, which the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has called ideal for such development, must now undergo an environmental assessment. The proposed development is part of Governor Deval Patrick’s plan to have 2,000 megawatts worth of wind-power capacity in his state by 2020:
“It’s a very exciting opportunity for Massachusetts,’’ said Richard K. Sullivan Jr., the state’s energy and environmental affairs secretary. “It also puts Massachusetts in a very strong position to be the national leader in offshore wind.’’
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has also been working to identify similar prime areas for such development along the Northern Atlantic coast. However, much like the proposed Cape Wind Project it is likely to undergo lengthy legal scrutiny before the government and developers can move forward. New wind turbine technology makes the new plan more effective than previous attempts:
Developers say wind energy areas will also be the proving ground for the next generation of wind turbines, each capable of generating 5- to 7-megawatts worth of power and being located far enough offshore so they would not be visible to many people. The prospect of turbine towers visible to Cape Cod landowners sparked much of the opposition to Cape Wind.
Currently, the industry’s standard offshore turbines generate about 3.6 megawatts of energy. Each megawatt produced by land-based wind turbines can power about 260 homes, but the strength of offshore winds is expected to make ocean wind farms more productive.
“It’s really the advent of these much larger turbines that makes these far out wind farms possible,’’ said Bill Moore, chief executive of Deepwater Wind LLC, a Rhode Island company already working to build a demonstration project off Block Island, using five 6-megawatt turbines.
The state is currently working on investigating any potential environmental problems before continuing with planning.
Sue Reid of the nonprofit Conservation Law Foundation said federal and state officials have worked to identify potential problems, such as how construction will affect endangered North American right whales, fishing areas, bird populations, and boat traffic.
“We don’t want to find out six years into it that all of a sudden there’s a significant conflict with a transportation route or a right whale feeding area,’’ Reid said.
Audra Parker, president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a Cape Wind opponent, said such care should have been taken when deciding where to locate Cape Wind.
“There’s no site that doesn’t have issues, but it’s a matter of balancing the public interests with the technical criteria, the developer’s interests,’’ she said. “We have for years promoted the concept of marine special planning, both to protect certain sites and to all other sites for development.’’