On the eve of President Joe Biden’s appearance on Nov. 1 at the COP26 global climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, the U.S. Interior Dept. pushed the administration’s clean energy agenda forward, announcing on Oct. 29 new moves to propel commercial-scale offshore wind development in federal waters in three areas.
Interior will propose on Nov. 1 a lease sale of an estimated 200-sq-mile area of Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Wilmington, N.C.; seek industry interest in developing projects in up to 30 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico; and start its review of the 147-turbine Mayflower Wind project located south of Martha’s Vineyard. The department seeks public input on all three proposals.
The administration, which aims to deploy 30 GW of offshore wind by 2030, has reviews of 10 other major offshore wind projects underway and plans another five by 2025, it said. Lease sales also are planned to start next year in the New York Bight area south of New York City and off the California coast.
Amanda Lefton, director of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), said despite the push, “we are asking for public input ... to do what we can to avoid, reduce or mitigate potential impacts to the marine environment and other ocean users when possible.”
The Carolina area lease sale, which BOEM said could host more than 1.5 GW of offshore wind power capacity, could be divided into as many as three lease areas. In its planned Nov. 1 Federal Register notice, the agency seeks comment through Jan. 3 on a lease auction format that could use “bidding credits” for developer investment in workforce training or in onshore U.S. manufacturing capacity for wind projects.
Based on comments and bidder qualifications it receives by Jan. 3, BOEM said it would then finalize the lease sale date and time, with more details published on its Carolina Long Bay website. North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper recently signed state legislation setting state offshore wind development targets and lease areas, with two developments planned.
For the Gulf of Mexico, BOEM will seek, in a separate Nov. 1 Federal Register notice, comment and developer interest through Dec. 16 for offshore energy projects in a large area from just west of the Mississippi River to the Texas-Mexico border.
The agency will then study potential environmental impacts of the commercial development as required by the National Environmental Policy Act before finalizing lease auction date and details, with more information available on BOEM's Gulf of Mexico website.
The Mayflower Wind offshore wind farm 30 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard is under development by energy giants Shell New Energies US, EDP Renewable and Engie, and could generate up to 2GW of power, said the firms. The project, to include five offshore substations and onshore grid links at two locations, already is contracted to provide 804 MW to Massachusetts’ three biggest utilities.
BOEM said It will take public comment on its estimated two-year review until Dec. 1 and will hold three virtual public meetings: Nov. 10 at 5 p.m.; Nov. 15 at 1 p.m.; and Nov. 18 at 5 p.m. Mayflower also needs to secure state approvals, with that process expected to start early next year, the company told local media.
The project already faces opposition from residents of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket, as well as from commercial fishing interests.