This report identifies and describes reasonably foreseeable ocean-based energy facility technologies and their broad potential development areas within Massachusetts state waters and federal waters up to 200 miles from the Massachusetts coastline (the project). The intent of the report is to identify candidate areas for the respective facilities that appear reasonably capable of development, by virtue of being: 1) feasible for technologies commercially available now, or expected to be so within the next decade; and 2) not likely to be cost prohibitive, in terms of macro-level locational factors affecting the balance of development costs/benefits. This project does not include or precede an actual screening process to identify specific sites for any offshore energy facilities; rather, the information presented in this document is for reconnaissance-level purposes only, to identify those segments of the ocean that appear most likely to be of future interest to the energy industry for development in the foreseeable future.
The project began with research into offshore energy technologies to determine what technologies are reasonably foreseeable and then sought to understand the key technology-specific parameters (“screening criteria”) affecting the identification of broad candidate areas with development potential, with respect to both the physical environment and with respect to general macro-economic considerations. TRC Environmental Corporation (TRC) then mapped the broad potential development areas for each reasonably foreseeable technology. The chief technologies that were identified as reasonably foreseeable included: offshore wind turbines, Tidal In-Stream Energy Conversion (TISEC) devices, wave energy, and the siting of offshore liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminals. Technologies screened out as not reasonably foreseeable included solar (photovoltaic and thermal electric), ocean thermal, floating wind turbines, structurally supported wind turbines at depths greater than 45 meters (m), and wind
energy conversion to hydrogen.
The results of the project include large scale maps depicting the broad potential development areas derived from the screening criteria for each of the referenced technologies. The maps show general locations where development of each reasonably foreseeable technology is possible. To develop a map that provides the most information possible as to prospective offshore development locations, these maps should later be combined with other human ocean use data, and also information about environmental resources and sensitive areas (which is beyond the scope of this project). The resulting maps would in turn provide a good source of information that the Commonwealth may consider in broader planning efforts. The maps created by TRC in this project provide one component of this more comprehensive evaluation process.
In general, the research shows that the Commonwealth has marginal resources in terms of wave energy and tidal power when compared to some other locations across the country. With respect to wind, the research shows that Massachusetts has excellent offshore wind resources and additional offshore wind projects can be expected to be proposed for development. The current most economical development for wind projects is in waters 5-
20 m deep. Within this water depth, siting decisions will hinge on the general tradeoff of maximizing wind speed versus minimizing the distance to an on land interconnection and also consideration of environmental and human use factors.
The mapping work also shows that there are many other locations where offshore LNG facilities could be developed based on their water depth requirements together with proximity to the existing pipeline distributions system. However, the types of LNG technologies, number of LNG facilities and their locations are heavily dependent on market forces, which are extremely difficult to assess, and beyond the scope of this effort.