The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) this week announced it has issued a lease to Florida Atlantic University (FAU) for marine hydrokinetic technology testing offshore Florida to evaluate the use of turbines powered by ocean currents.

“This is the first time a lease has been issued to test ocean current energy equipment in Federal waters,” said BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruickshank. “The Gulf Stream contains a tremendous amount of energy and this technology offers exciting potential to expand the nation’s renewable energy portfolio.”

FAU’s Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center (SNMREC) applied for a lease to deploy experimental demonstration devices in an area located approximately 10 to 12 NM offshore Fort Lauderdale.

“This project is a potentially paradigm-shifting development in the global quest for clean energy sources and puts South Florida at the forefront of research in this critical effort,” FAU President John Kelly said. “It also demonstrates the multidisciplinary nature of marine renewables research, a successful public, private partnership and FAU’s international leadership in the field.”

The proposed project involves the installation of multiple anchored floating “test berths” to evaluate ocean current turbine designs. Each test berth will consist of a buoy anchored to the sea floor to measure ocean conditions and allow ocean current turbine prototypes to be deployed from vessels moored in the Gulf Stream. Now that the lease has been executed, FAU may submit a project plan for BOEM’s review.

In April 2012, BOEM published in the Federal Register an environmental assessment (EA) for the proposed project for a 30-day public review period. The EA considered potential environmental impacts and socioeconomic effects of issuing a lease and associated project activities (e.g., conducting surveys, installing mooring and telemetry buoys and testing of equipment) designed to use the Florida current to generate electricity.

BOEM published a revised EA in August 2013. Based on the analysis contained in the revised EA, BOEM issued a Finding of No Significant Impact, which concluded that the environmental impacts associated with the proposed activities would not significantly impact the environment.

Today’s announcement builds on BOEM’s activities to grow offshore renewable energy through issuing leases for renewable energy activities. BOEM has awarded five commercial wind energy leases off the Atlantic coast: two non-competitive leases and three competitive leases. BOEM expects to hold additional competitive auctions for wind energy areas offshore Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey this year.

Off the Pacific Coast, BOEM has given the approval for Principle Power, Inc. to submit a formal plan to build a 30- megawatt pilot project using floating wind turbine technology offshore Coos Bay, Ore.,  and is reviewing an application from the National Northwest Marine Energy Center-Oregon State University for a research lease to evaluate wave energy converter performance.

For more information about the FAU lease and EA, go to BOEM’s website by clicking here.