U.S. Regional Offshore Wind Leasing Strategy Announced

file photo courtesy of Deepwater Wind
file photo courtesy of Deepwater Wind

By The Maritime Executive 06-12-2019 08:49:05

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has published a new regional offshore wind leasing strategy, saying the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) provides a world-class wind resource on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. BOEM has 15 active commercial leases for offshore wind development that could support more than 21 gigawatts of generating capacity. The first commercial scale offshore wind facility on the OCS could be under construction as early as this year. 

However, BOEM notes the need to consider other uses, such as commercial and recreational fishing, vessel traffic and military mission needs and and will be moving forward with leasing using a regional approach, processing projects currently in the pipeline, and pursuing leasing activities as follows:

Gulf of Maine. On January 2, 2019, BOEM received a letter from the Governor of New Hampshire requesting the establishment of an Intergovernmental Task Force.  Although the State of Maine and Commonwealth of Massachusetts have not yet expressed interest in promoting development in this area, BOEM believes that the establishment of a regional task force for the Gulf of Maine area that includes Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts governmental members will support further dialogue and collaboration on offshore wind matters affecting shared natural, socioeconomic, and cultural resources on a regional scale.

Southern New England. There are currently seven active offshore wind energy leases in this area, totaling 902,391 acres. BOEM believes the current level of leasing is sufficient to meet the renewable energy goals established by the states in the region. Therefore, BOEM will continue to service the existing leases offshore Southern New England until there is additional interest from either the states or the offshore wind industry. In 2019 BOEM and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts will enter into a cooperative agreement to begin regional fisheries studies that have been identified as priorities by the fishing industry.

New York Bight. In 2017, BOEM established the Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force for the New York Bight to ensure that future leasing off the coasts of New York and New Jersey properly consider and address regional concerns. Given the ambitious renewable energy goals established by the leadership of both states and the possibility for interconnection to both states, BOEM anticipates leasing additional areas in the New York Bight over time, pending completion of the Area Identification process later this year.

Mid-Atlantic Seaboard. Delaware and Maryland have expressed interest in identifying additional wind energy areas. BOEM will continue to work with both Intergovernmental Task Forces to further evaluate leasing opportunities in each state.

VANC. Both the Commonwealth of Virginia and State of North Carolina expressed interest in identifying additional wind energy areas for potential future offshore wind leasing. According to BOEM’s analysis, both states have potential for offshore wind energy development, and BOEM will work with the Intergovernmental Task Forces in this region to further evaluate leasing opportunities.

Carolina Long Bay. BOEM has combined the planning and leasing process for the wind energy areas located offshore Wilmington, North Carolina and potential areas located offshore South Carolina to follow a similar regional model found in the areas to the North. BOEM will work with both North and South Carolina using a regional model to plan and analyze potential future offshore wind leasing in the Carolinas.

California. BOEM issued a Call for Information and Nominations to assess industry interest for three potential lease areas on October 19, 2018. It has received over 100 comments and 14 nominations from developers for all three of these areas. BOEM anticipates conducting a sale in 2020.

Oregon. BOEM is processing a research lease request for a wave energy testing facility in Oregon. BOEM is convening an Oregon Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force in the fall of 2019 to explore the possibility of future offshore wind development.

Hawaii. BOEM issued a Call for Information and Nominations in 2016 for two potential wind lease areas offshore Oahu. BOEM continues to work closely with the state and the Department of Defense to identify areas appropriate for leasing for future wind development offshore Hawaii.

NOIA Vice President for Government and Political Affairs Tim Charters issued a statement about the strategy: “For nearly a decade, BOEM has operated with a regional approach, giving states and BOEM the flexibility to develop offshore wind projects in a manner that balances state policies and federal leasing. This amazing effort has put the United States on the verge of an offshore energy boom, which will bring billions of dollars of investment along with thousands of jobs and tens of gigawatts of electricity. 

“However, the ascendant U.S. offshore wind industry and its supporting supply chain need a steady supply of planning, leasing and construction opportunities to build a competitive and robust domestic industry. While the historic users of the ocean search out agreeable paths to accommodate this growing industry, the resources in federal waters ultimately belong to the American people, thus there must be a strong federal commitment to developing our offshore wind resources. More leasing means more competition for opportunities and more players in the offshore space, which means more competition for prices and more opportunities for supply chain companies. 

“NOIA is encouraged by BOEM’s path forward in both the interest in offshore wind and the geographic diversity of potential projects. However, NOIA hopes that BOEM will further develop this strategy to give industry a clearer idea of when and where to expect lease sales. As an example, one option would be to commit in advance to a multi-sale schedule for the Gulf of Maine and begin the planning process with a potential commitment to three to five sales over the next seven to 10 years, providing states and industry with the federal commitment necessary to continue the robust growth of offshore wind.”