The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is calling on mariners and other interests to get their input on where the government should offer future Atlantic offshore leases for wind energy development.
The agency says it is “conducting a high-level assessment of all waters offshore the United States Atlantic Coast for potential future offshore wind lease locations" and as part of that is publishing a request for feedback (RFF) April 6 in the Federal Register.
Despite President Trump’s ambiguous attitude toward wind energy during the 2016 presidential campaign, his administration continues the Obama “all of the above” policy on offshore energy. Thirteen leases are in place from New England to the Carolinas, and BOEM is working with New York State planners who want to see wider swaths of the ocean open to wind developers.
“The Administration continues to make great progress toward securing America’s energy future,” said Vincent DeVito, a White House counselor on energy policy, in announcing the call for information. “The outlook for offshore wind is bright and today, we are taking the next step to ensure a domestic offshore wind industry.”
BOEM officials say they are more likely to exclude areas that have existing spatial conflicts, including military exercise like those the Navy uses off the Mid-Atlantic States, and charted shipping routes. There could be some areas specifically prohibited from consideration under the federal Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act as well.
There’s also a list of broad factors that can make areas more attractive for future leasing: locations more than 10 nautical miles from shore (and thus mostly out of sight from land), in shelf areas shallower than 200’, and where wind energy developers have expressed interest.
“BOEM is seeking input on all aspects of our proposed path forward, but particularly, the merits of these factors and whether there are other factors that should be considered at this preliminary stage,” according to a statement from the agency. Explanations its reasoning behind those factors and sample maps are posted on the BOEM website at https://www.boem.gov/Renewable-Energy/Path-Forward/.
Two more key factors are spots offshore from states that have created the economic incentives and goals for adding offshore wind power to their future energy plans, and want BOEM to identify additional areas for leasing.
Those include Massachusetts, New York — where Statoil is preparing the design for its Empire Wind array — and New Jersey, all with Democratic administrations that are making big plans for offshore wind power to supplant aging fossil fuel and even nuclear power plants on land.
At the International Offshore Wind Partnering Forum held Wednesday in Princeton, N.J., Gov. Phil Murphy announced that wind developer Ørsted North America will open a local office in Atlantic City to manage planning for its nearby federal lease. U.S. Wind and Deepwater Wind also hold neighboring leases off the Jersey Shore.
The gambling resort is the site on New Jersey’s biggest onshore wind farm, and could have been the scene for the nation’s first offshore project by the locally based Fishermen’s Energy LLC. But that project stalled during the administration of Murphy’s predecessor, Republican former Gov. Chris Christie, and instead Deepwater Wind’s Block Island Wind Farm off Rhode Island was first out of the gate.
“Nearly a decade ago, NJ was poised to be a global leader in offshore wind generation,” Murphy said Wednesday. “Then, because of politics, all progress stopped. Our offshore future was halted before it could begin. We need to reclaim our clean energy future through the power of offshore wind.”
Comments can be submitted online by going to the website http://www.regulations.gov. Under the entry titled ‘‘Enter Keyword or ID,’’ search for BOEM-2018-0018. Follow the instructions to submit public comments in response to this document.
To comment by mail, written comments can be sent in an envelope labeled ‘‘Comments on Request for Feedback’’ to: Office of Renewable Energy Programs, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, 45600 Woodland Road, VAM-OREP, Sterling, Virginia 20166.