BOEM Announces Path Forward for Offshore Wind Leasing 

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management recently issued an update on the agency’s offshore wind leasing strategy for the Outer Continental Shelf. While pointing out the OCS “provides a world-class wind resource on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts” BOEM acknowledges the ocean “is already a very busy place.”
BOEM Announces Path Forward for Offshore Wind Leasing 
Courtesy of NREL

The agency said in planning for future commercial lease sales, other uses in potential sites must be taken into account. These include commercial and recreational fishing, vessel traffic and military mission needs. It goes on to say engaging stakeholders – including federal, state and local agencies, fishing communities, and the public – throughout the processes is essential.

BOEM currently has 15 active commercial leases for offshore wind development that could support more than 21 GW of generating capacity. The first commercial scale offshore wind facility on the OCS could be under construction as early as this year. 

The agency, which is part of the U.S. Department of Interior, states it “believes that predictability in its planning and leasing process provides a benefit to the development of the offshore wind energy industry.”

BOEM has identified the following forecast areas 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.

In regards to regional fisheries science, 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 WEAs. 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 WEAs 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 WEAs located offshore Wilmington, North Carolina and the “Call Areas” located offshore South Carolina to follow a similar regional model found in the areas to the North. (Call Areas are identified by BOEM prior to the Area Identification phase as areas that may be made available for future leasing, based on industry interest in acquiring commercial wind leases and additional information developed on the suitability of the areas.) Moving forward, recognizing that the offshore wind industry has evolved in recent years, 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. We expect to establish WEAs later this year.
  • California. BOEM issued a Call for Information and Nominations to assess industry interest for three Call Areas on October 19, 2018. BOEM will continue to consult with the State of California and federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, to inform their decision to offer all or part of the Call Areas for commercial wind leasing. It anticipates conducting a sale in 2020.
  • Oregon. BOEM is processing a research lease request for a wave energy testing facility in Oregon and cooperating with FERC, which has the licensing authority for marine hydrokinetic projects. 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 Call 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.

Tim Charters, vice president for government and political affairs at the National Ocean Industries Association, responded to the new strategy, saying “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.”

BOEM concluded, “Our continued support of a robust and sustainable offshore wind energy industry in the United States will require a thorough understanding of the drivers that make an area more or less suitable for development. This process must be informed by continued feedback from our stakeholders as well as additional research to understand the potential for environmental and socio-economic impacts. 

“We look forward to working with all these groups and others to ensure BOEM has the most recent and best available information to make informed decisions while implementing an all-of-the-above energy strategy.”


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