06/11/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/12/2019 13:48
Contact: Stephen Boutwell
What is BOEM's overall offshore wind leasing strategy? This is a question that is frequently asked during the many wind events in which we participate.
The demand for offshore wind energy has never been greater. Plummeting costs, technological advances, skyrocketing demand and great economic potential have all combined to make offshore wind a highly promising avenue for adding to a diversified national energy portfolio. The U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) provides a world-class wind resource on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
At the same time, BOEM recognizes that the ocean is already a very busy place, and so we must consider other uses, such as commercial and recreational fishing, vessel traffic, and military mission needs, in addition to important environmental considerations. This is why engaging stakeholders - including federal, state and local agencies, fishing communities, and the public - throughout our processes is such an essential part of our renewable energy program.
BOEM has 15 active commercial leases for offshore wind development that could support more than 21 gigawatts of generating capacity. The first commercial scale offshore wind facility on the OCS could be under construction as early as this year.
Offshore wind is an abundant domestic energy resource located close to major coastal load centers, providing an alternative to long-distance transmission or development of (onshore) electricity generation in these land-constrained regions. Successfully harnessing this natural, renewable resource will require:
Achieving these objectives is critical for the continued development of the existing pipeline of projects and expanding lease offerings on both the Atlantic and Pacific OCS.
Executive Order 13783, issued March 28, 2017, establishes the federal policy of promoting clean and safe development of domestic energy resources, including renewable energy, to ensure national security and provide affordable, reliable, safe, secure, and clean energy. BOEM is uniquely positioned to guide future offshore wind development in the United States and significantly contribute to the nation's energy portfolio.
In April of 2018, BOEM developed and sought feedback on a Proposed Path Forward for Future Offshore Renewable Energy Leasing on the Atlantic OCS (83 FR 14881). The Atlantic Coast offshore wind assessment tool was developed to assist in planning where future offshore renewable energy leasing may occur. This tool uses a combination of positive and exclusionary factors to evaluate the potential for wind energy development on the entire Atlantic OCS. BOEM received multiple comments on the Request for Feedback about the Proposed Path Forward (which were incorporated into an updated assessment that can be found on BOEM's website at: https://www.boem.gov/Renewable-Energy-Path-Forward/). The major topics included: fisheries, marine traffic, DoD use areas, and state-specific renewable energy incentives. BOEM has adopted a similar assessment to identify potential leasing areas on the Pacific OCS. We will continue to work hard to balance the needs of all of our stakeholders through extensive and continuous engagement efforts into the future.
Employing a Regional Approach
BOEM believes that predictability in its planning and leasing process provides a benefit to the development of the offshore wind energy industry. As a result of this initial effort and analysis of the comments received, 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:
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.
More Regional Considerations
Enhanced Stakeholder Cooperation BOEM continues to engage with our Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Forces, stakeholder groups, and the public, and we encourage establishing mechanisms to make that engagement more effective. A recent example is BOEM's partnership with the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) and the National Marine Fisheries Service to underscore our commitment to consider local and regional fishing interests in the offshore wind process, identify the most effective ways to bring fishing industry expertise and information into planning and development phases, and to develop a collaborative regional research and monitoring framework to ensure decisions are based on the best available science. We invite any of our stakeholders to meet with us to discuss more effective means of engagement.
Floating Technology Today's offshore wind facilities are predominantly made up of monopile or jacket foundations. However, technology is rapidly advancing to the point where the industry could see the commercialization of floating foundations in the offshore wind market in the near future. In our original assessment efforts for the Atlantic, we considered areas shallower than 60m as a positive factor given the conventional 'bottom-founded' technology that is limited to this depth. In response to the Request for Feedback about the Proposed Path Forward, we received multiple requests to assess deeper waters to consider floating turbine technology. As a result of comments received and the anticipated technological advancements, BOEM plans to further explore this exciting new possibility on the Atlantic coast through a whitepaper and workshop on deep water development in early 2020.
Transmission As we near the construction and operations phase of several offshore wind projects, the topic of power transmission becomes increasingly important. There are multiple technical, environmental, economic, policy and regulatory questions that need to be addressed as an industry. In addition, due to the regional nature of offshore wind projects, transmission will impact multiple states, each with their own regulatory frameworks and priorities.
Under BOEM's current regulations, a lease grants the lessee the right to one or more project easements for the purpose of installing transmission. In the future, BOEM anticipates receiving right of way requests from companies seeking to construct offshore grid connection networks. BOEM will continue to work with all of our stakeholders as we evaluate the viability of these alternative transmission models and ensure their compatibility with shared ocean uses.
The Bottom Line
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.