News of further follow-through on President Barack Obama’s Climate Action Plan broke over the course of the past two weeks: The Department of Interior and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced plans to auction nearly 80,000 acres of Atlantic Ocean waters off the coast of Maryland and proposed leasing another 344,000 acres off the New Jersey coast for offshore wind energy development.
BOEM has awarded five commercial offshore wind energy leases off the Atlantic Coast so far, part and parcel of the Obama administration’s Smart from the Start sustainable offshore wind energy development program. Collectively, these span more than 277,500 acres and have brought in over $5 million in high-bids for the U.S. Treasury.
Researchers at Stanford University have determined that Atlantic offshore winds could yield enough renewable electricity to power at least one-third of the entire U.S., or the entire East Coast from Maine to Florida. The challenges associated with turning this promise into reality are numerous and varied, however.
Potential 1,450 MW of Maryland offshore wind power
Through Smart from the Start, BOEM has already awarded two non-competitive leases to Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound off the Massachusetts coast and another in offshore Delaware.
Scheduled to take place August 19, the Maryland Wind Energy Area (MWEA) competitive lease sale will add nearly 80,000 acres to the 477,500 in BOEM awards thus far. To be auctioned off in two parcels, MWEA could support wind turbines with a total capacity of between 850 and 1,450 megawatts (MW) if fully developed, according to an analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). That’s enough electricity to power some 300,000 U.S. homes.
Sixteen companies have qualified and are vying for the offshore wind energy development lease areas:
- Apex Offshore Maryland
- Bluewater Wind Maryland
- Convalt Energy
- Dominion Wind Development
- EDF Renewable Energy
- Energy Management
- Fishermen’s Energy
- Green Sail Energy
- IBERDROLA RENEWABLES
- Maryland Offshore Wind
- Orisol Energy U.S.
- RES America Developments
- SCS Maryland Energy
- Sea Breeze Energy
- Seawind Renewable Energy Corporation
- U.S. Wind
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell highlighted the key roles Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley and BOEM’s Maryland Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force played in laying all the groundwork for the Aug. 19 offshore wind energy development auction.
Commenting on the U.S. offshore wind energy milestone, Gov. O’Malley said:
“To combat climate change, we must develop cleaner, renewable sources of energy — and today’s announcement is a tremendous step forward for the U.S. offshore wind industry. As we continue our work to drive up renewable energy generation in Maryland by 20 percent by 2022, the O’Malley-Brown Administration is committed to continuing to work with our federal partners to do everything we can to meet this goal and create a stronger, more sustainable future for generations to come.”
Proposed New Jersey offshore wind auction
Following up on the July 2 announcement of Maryland Wind Energy Area offshore lease auction, Interior Secretary Jewell and BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruickshank on July 17 announced the proposed sale of leases for nearly 344,000 acres off the New Jersey coast for commercial wind energy leasing.
Akin to the federal-state institutional framework used to develop the MWEA, the New Jersey Wind Energy Area (NJWEA) was mapped out by BOEM in consultation with members of its New Jersey Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force. The group includes federal, state, tribal and local government partners.
NREL again played an important role in defining and delineating the NJWEA. Divided into two parcels about seven nautical miles off the coast of Atlantic city, the NJWEA could support as much as 3,400 MW of commercial offshore wind power generation – enough to power some 1.2 million homes, according to NREL’s study.
Commenting on the proposed NJWEA auction, BOEM Acting Director Cruickshank state,
“The key to responsible offshore development is substantial stakeholder engagement to identify and address any concerns early in the process. Members of the New Jersey Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force have demonstrated leadership and foresight in making sure that the wind energy planning process considers input from many important stakeholders, including industry, environmental organizations, and the maritime community.”
NJWEA’s Proposed Sale Notice is to be published in the Federal Register on July 21. The proposal will from then be open for public comment for 60 days, a period that will end on Sept. 19. That date will also serve as the deadline for any companies or groups interested in bidding at the auction to submit their qualification packages.
In addition to the proposed offshore wind development lease auction offshore New Jersey, Interior and BOEM expect to hold a competitive auction for Wind Energy Areas off the Massachusetts coast in the coming year.
Images credit: 1) Anonymous, offshore wind farm Denmark; 2) & 3) BOEM