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BOEM Proposes Offshore Wind Area Auctions in Gulf of Mexico and Oregon

offshore wind farm
BOEM proposed plans for Oregon and the Gulf of Maine (file photo)

Published Apr 30, 2024 2:26 PM by The Maritime Executive

 

The U.S. Department of the Interior took its next steps in the aggressive plans to accelerate the development of offshore wind energy in the U.S. They released proposals for two new wind areas off the coast of Oregon and in the Gulf of Maine which they said combined could provide 18 GW of energy. It however includes more controversial areas especially along the Oregon coast.

The Biden Administration highlights that it has already approved eight offshore sites with a combined capacity of more than 10 GW, which they said will power nearly four million homes. They are also continuing the lengthy review process for additional proposals after having conducted four auctions including the New York Bight, offshore of the Carolina, and the first sales off the coast of California, and in the Gulf of Mexico.

Today’s proposals include eight lease areas offshore Marine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. Combined it represents nearly one million acres in the Gulf of Maine and the potential for 15 GW. The Bureau of Offshore Energy Management (BOEM) is proposing to conduct simultaneous auctions for each of the eight lease areas. Before finalizing the plan, they said they are seeking feedback on various aspects including the size of the lease areas, orientation, and location. They are also looking for input if any areas should be prioritized for inclusion or exclusion.

The proposed Gulf of Maine Sale Notice will be published on May 1. It maps out the areas ranging between 101,000 and 132,000 acres. The 60-day comment period will run to July 1, 2024. 

 

 

The Pacific Coast proposal focuses on two lease areas totaling approximately 195,000 acres off the coast of Oregon. The Coos Bay Wind Energy Area and the other in the Brookings Wind Energy Area they said could power more than one million homes and provide approximately 3 GW. Along with the proposed lease sale, BOEM released its draft environmental review of potential impacts associated with offshore wind energy leasing activities for public review and comment.

"As we move forward with offshore wind energy in Oregon and the Gulf of Maine, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management remains dedicated to close collaboration with our government partners and key stakeholders," said BOEM Director Elizabeth Klein. "We're excited to unveil these proposed sales and emphasize our commitment to exploring the potential for offshore wind development from coast to coast."

The Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians, however, immediately released a statement saying they were “extremely disappointed,” in BOEM’s announcement that it was moving to finalize the wind areas. The Tribal Council previously expressed its opposition to offshore wind energy development off the Oregon Coast. 

Today, they are accusing the federal government of ignoring their concerns and “providing promises that they may be dealt with at some later stage of the process.” They contend that the proposed areas are within the tribe’s ancestral territory, contain viewsheds of significant cultural and historic significance, and are important fishing areas. They have requested that BOEM exclude important, cultural viewsheds as well as areas critical to resident and migratory species and important fishing areas.

BOEM says that the proposals reflect a multi-year planning process including input from the tribes and other groups and data such as that from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In identifying these areas, BOEM says it prioritized avoidance of offshore fishing grounds and identification of vessel transit routes while retaining sufficient acreage to support the region’s offshore wind energy goals. They said they will continue to engage with the different groups and continue to refine the plans.

The new areas are part of a broader plan by the Biden Administration. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland last week announced a new five-year offshore wind lease schedule, which includes up to 12 potential offshore wind energy lease sales through 2029. Future offshore wind energy lease sales from BOEM are anticipated in the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Pacific, and the waters offshore of the U.S. territories in the next five years.