US Designates Last Shallow Water East Coast Offshore Wind Areas
The United States is continuing to move forward aggressively with the efforts to develop its emerging offshore wind energy industry. In the latest development, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced three additional Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) offshore Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia. If fully developed, the bureau reports these areas could provide between four and eight gigawatts of additional energy production.
The designation of the three areas, which was published today, August 1, 2023, in the Federal Register will initiate a 30-day public comment period. The areas represented a subset of the original 3.9 million acres that the Department of the Interior identified for public comment in April 2022. BOEM had requested public comment on eight draft WEAs on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf offshore North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware, covering approximately 1.7 million acres.
BOEM highlights the three designated areas as significant as they are likely the last WEAs in comparatively shallow water along the East Coast. BOEM published its Notice of Intent to prepare an environmental assessment of potential impacts from offshore wind leasing in the WEAs as the next step in the process. After receiving the additional comments and completing its environmental assessment, BOEM would define the areas and decide if it plans to move forward with a lease sale in any of the WEAs. There would be another comment period and review before the auction would be scheduled.
The three WEAs total approximately 356,550 acres which were selected in partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science to develop a comprehensive, ecosystem-based ocean planning model that assisted in the selection of the final WEAs.
The first of the three designated areas is 101,767 acres and is located 26 nautical miles from Delaware Bay. The second is 78,285 acres and about 23.5 nm offshore Ocean City, Maryland. The third is 176,506 acres and located about 35 nm from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, offshore Virginia.
As part of BOEM’s ongoing coordination with the Department of Defense and NASA, an in-depth review of WEA B-1 (the second of the three areas) will continue to determine if their activities could co-exist with wind energy development. The results of the final in-depth assessment from DoD and NASA will be used to inform whether WEA B-1 should be included in a possible lease sale, which would be the next step in the wind energy process.
BOEM also continues its broader review of the region for longer-term planning. They noted the bureau may identify additional WEAs in deepwater areas offshore the U.S. Central Atlantic coast for future leasing once further study of those areas has been done.
In less than a year, BOEM has conducted lease auctions for the New York Bight, Carolina Long Bay, and northern and central California. BOEM has also completed another step in reviewing a potential offshore wind research lease in the Gulf of Maine and is moving forward with plans for a lease area off the coast of Oregon. Just about two weeks ago, BOEM announced the next wind energy lease auction, which will be the first for the Gulf of Mexico. The areas will be auctioned on August 29 and will have the potential to generate approximately 3.7 GW and power almost 1.3 million homes. One area is over 102,000 acres offshore of Lake Charles, Louisiana. Two other areas are offshore Galveston, Texas comprising a total of approximately 200,000 acres.
Biden has committed the United States to 30 GW of offshore wind energy by 2030.