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U.S. Offshore Wind Energy Area Would Nearly Double Under New Plan

The Department of the Interior is proposing a large expansion of U.S. efforts to make energy from offshore winds, with a plan centered off the Massachusetts coast. Here, a 2010 photo shows a sunrise over Nantucket Sound.
Julia Cumes

A large swath of the Atlantic Ocean could soon be used to generate electricity, as a U.S. agency proposes opening more than 1,000 square miles of ocean to wind energy projects. The area is off the coast of Massachusetts, which has been working on the proposal with federal officials.

The area under consideration is near the region where parcels for offshore wind farms were auctioned off last year, in what one U.S. official called "a really historic moment in the clean energy future of this country."

The U.S. Department of the Interior says the new Massachusetts Wind Energy Area would be auctioned off in four leases. The agency's proposal begins a 60-day public comment period that will end on August 18.

From Boston, Asma Khalid of member station WBUR reports:

"The proposed area is the largest offshore wind zone in federal water. It's more than 742,000 acres — roughly the size of Rhode Island. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell says the Atlantic coast of Massachusetts is prime offshore wind property.

" 'We think there is high potential and high interest, and relatively low conflict in the areas that we picked,' she says.

"That conflict refers to the countless hurdles offshore wind turbines have hit, including objections from commercial fishermen and residents.

"The proposed area is roughly 12 miles off the coast of Martha's Vineyard. It has the potential to nearly double the federal offshore wind area currently available for development."

The Department of the Interior's announcement includes instructions for submitting comments, saying they can be sent to the federal .

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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