BOEM Takes Key Step for First U.S. West Coast Offshore Wind Leases

first US West Coast offshore wind leases
BOEM is taking the final step for the first California offshore leases before setting the auction (file photo)

Published May 26, 2022 4:58 PM by The Maritime Executive

Moving forward with its plans for the first-ever offshore wind lease sale proposed on America’s west coast, the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management released the details for the proposed auction. It is the final step, seeking public comments, in the process before the auction date is set and it also marks a milestone for the floating offshore wind sector which will be used to develop these sites.

A year ago, the Department of the Interior and California announced an agreement to advance areas for wind energy development offshore the northern and central coasts of California. They have been working through the process of surveys and comments defining the specifics for the two regions on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore California.

The Proposed Sale Notice (PSN) announced today and which will publish?in the Federal Register on May 31, 2022, includes three proposed lease areas in the Morro Bay Wind Energy Area off central California and two proposed lease areas in the Humboldt Wind Energy Area off northern California. BOEM said that as currently defined the three lease areas total approximately 373,268 acres that have the potential to produce over 4.5 gigawatts of offshore wind energy.

“Today’s action represents tangible progress towards achieving the Biden Administration’s vision for a clean energy future offshore California while creating a domestic supply chain and good-paying union jobs,” said Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Amanda Lefton. “BOEM is committed to robust stakeholder engagement and ensuring any offshore wind leasing is done in a manner that avoids or minimizes potential impacts to the ocean and ocean users. The Proposed Sale Notice provides another opportunity for local communities, Tribes, ocean users, developers, and others to weigh in on potential wind energy activities offshore California.”

The National Ocean Industries Association issued a brief statement on social media this afternoon calling the development “big news,” as the trade group has been advocating for the Biden Administration to accelerate the lease process to meet the goal of 30GW of offshore power by 2030. 

The publication of the notices starts a 60-day public comment period and provides detailed information about the proposed lease areas, proposed lease provisions and conditions, and auction details. After reviewing the comments, BOEM would proceed to set the date for the auction which they have been targeting for later this year.

Among the lease stipulations BOEM is proposing is a 2.5 percent bidding credit to bidders who have executed or commit to executing a community benefit agreement with a community or ocean users whose use of a lease area, or whose use of resources harvested from a lease area, is directly impacted by the lessee’s potential offshore wind energy development. Further, they propose to offer a 20 percent bidding credit to bidders who commit to investing in programs that will advance U.S. offshore wind energy workforce training, supply chain development, or both. Other elements call for making best efforts for union labor agreements and engaging local communities. 

The Business Network for Offshore Wind hailed the news noting that offshore wind in the Pacific Ocean requires floating turbines. The trade group said today’s announcement marks the simultaneous step forward in the development of the next generation of offshore wind technology.

“Floating markets are advancing quickly in Asia and Europe creating a race to develop our own capabilities and position the U.S. as a global leader in this cutting-edge market,” said Liz Burdock, CEO and founder of the Business Network for Offshore Wind. “Advancing offshore wind on the West Coast unlocks floating offshore turbine technology and will start a modern-day gold rush to revolutionize California’s energy sector with offshore wind development.”

To date, BOEM has held 10 competitive lease sales and has issued 25 active commercial offshore wind leases in the Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to North Carolina. The California lease sale will be the first in the Pacific region while developers recently placed an unsolicited bid with BOEM for sites to the north along the Oregon coast. The bureau is also moving forward to develop the first offshore wind lease auction for the Gulf of Mexico.