European energy companies seek new Northeast wind leases

Two European companies made new unsolicited requests for federal offshore wind energy leases off New York and Massachusetts, including a second proposed area near shipping lanes close to Long Island, and areas totaling nearly 390,000 acres southwest of Nantucket.

Statoil Wind US LLC, a subsidiary of Norwegian energy major Statoil, and PNE Wind USA Inc., a subsidiary of German offshore wind developer PNE Wind AG, are both seeking to bid on two areas of 248,015 acres and 140,554 acres in federal waters south of Massachusetts.

A map shows PNE's unsolicited proposed wind energy area off New York.

A map shows PNE’s unsolicited proposed wind energy area off New York.

Those proposed leases would be near wind energy zones recently leased by Danish-based DONG Energy. Off Long Island, PNE has proposed leasing 40,920 acres east of Statoil’s nearly 80,000-acre New York wind energy lease, granted by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in December 2016 for a record-setting $42.5 million.

Commercial fishing industry groups have already challenged Statoil’s New York lease in court, arguing that BOEM did not adequately evaluate the project’s impact on scallop and squid fishing fleets. A federal judge in February refused to issue an injunction against the lease but fishermen said they will continue to oppose the plan.

Statoil’s winning bid, preceded by DONG’s move into Northeast and Mid-Atlantic leases, underscore how major players in the European offshore wind energy industry see potential for selling into U.S. East Coast urban areas. The new requests announced by BOEM were submitted by Statoil and PNE in December and January.

Wind power advocates publicly express optimism for offshore prospects in the coming years. But it is unclear how developers’ applications may fare under the Trump administration.

President Trump himself has opposed an offshore wind project near one of his golf course properties in Scotland. There has been little indication how the administration will regard wind power, even as offshore oil and gas industry spokesmen express confidence the administration will seek to undo restrictions on Atlantic and Arctic exploration imposed in the final weeks of the Obama administration.

Under Trump, resources for BOEM’s offshore wind permitting review could be reduced, slowing developers’ progress. But where the industry already has a foothold — including Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York and Maryland — projects have political support from state officials and lawmakers. With planning and construction timelines that extend through the 2020s, they could wait out a federal pullback on wind energy.

About the author

Kirk Moore

Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for over 30 years before joining WorkBoat in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. He has also been a field editor for WorkBoat’s sister publication, National Fisherman, for almost 25 years. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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