The Department of the Interior this week will lease a huge tract of ocean off the Massachusetts coast to utilities for the right to build wind farms and generate clean power for New England.
Twelve companies have been asked to bid on the four lease areas within the 1,160-square-mile patch south of Martha’s Vineyard. The auction, to be held Thursday, will be the largest such sale to date by the federal government. If built out, the project would generate enough electricity to power 1.5 million homes, according to Ari Phillips of ClimateProgress.
Offshore wind power has become popular in Europe, but has yet to gain traction in the United States. A previous project off the Massachusetts coast, Cape Wind, is on hold because of lack of funding and opposition to its location near Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket and Cape Cod by area residents, including members of the Kennedy clan. The new project will be farther offshore.
One problem Interior might face in this week’s auction is that energy is cheaper now, thanks to the huge drop in oil prices. Investors might feel that they won’t be able to charge enough for the wind energy to make money on the project.