Massachusetts is likely to increase its legally mandated 1,600MW offshore wind target, says Matthew Beaton, the state’s secretary for energy and the environment.

“I think everyone in this room will be pleased to know that very soon we’ll probably have much more than 1,600MW of authorisation,” Beaton said Thursday at the US Offshore Wind conference in Boston, adding that the discussion will likely play out over the next few years.

Any increase in the target would need to be approved by the state legislature.

Massachusetts’ Republican governor, Charlie Baker, took office in 2015, and the following year galvanised the US offshore market by signing into law a 1.6GW state offshore wind mandate for 2027 – the nation’s first such legally binding target.

Two weeks ago, the state signed its first major offshore wind contract – 800MW with developer Vineyard Wind. The contract was bigger than many in the industry had expected, and with onshore construction to begin next year, the inevitable supply-chain scramble has already started.

Massachusetts will follow up next year with its second offshore wind request for proposal, which could again be worth 800MW, meaning that the state’s full targeted 1.6GW could soon be in motion at various projects.

At the same time, two additional offshore lease zones south of Massachusetts are expected to be auctioned off later this year, potentially leaving substantial excess capacity off the state’s coastline. Some of that capacity could be sold into other state markets.

Beaton, a former Republican state congressman who’s served in his role since Baker took office, said it’s important that Massachusetts not “rush things”, to avoid mistakes or market disruptions.

But he acknowledged the tremendous momentum the US offshore market has gained in the past two years, and signaled the industry can expect more announcements from Massachusetts as it looks to retain its market leadership.

“Certainly, there is much more capacity available than 1,600MW in the lease areas that we have before us,” Beaton told the conference.

“It’s going to be a question of working with the legislature – and there’s already conversations happening in the legislature, of let’s increase the limit and give you [the industry] the opportunity to just keep running with it.”

“In Massachusetts there’s a great desire to go well beyond 1,600MW, and we want to get there as quickly as possible.”

"I think over the course of the next couple of years we'll continue to have that conversation with the legislature, and figure out what that next number looks like," Beaton says.

Reflecting afterward on Beaton’s comments, Bill White, senior director for offshore wind at the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, called it a “significant moment”.

At the end of the day, much will ride on the as-yet-unrevealed price of Vineyard’s 800MW project, White says. When it comes to a bigger state target, “it’s really going to be about cost, and what it means to ratepayers”, he says.