The U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has announced plans to auction the rights to lease sites off the North Carolina coast for offshore wind projects.
Under the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's "Smart from the Start" competitive program for leasing sites on the outer continental shelf (OCS) for commercial wind energy development, BOEM conducts a series of stakeholder and environmental review processes. Through these processes, BOEM identifies areas that are attractive for commercial offshore wind development, while also protecting important viewsheds, sensitive habitats and resources and minimizing space use conflicts with activities such as military operations, shipping and fishing.
For North Carolina, the process began in December 2012 when BOEM published in the Federal Register a Call for Information and Nominations and a Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Assessment. After considering the public comments and responses, BOEM defined three Wind Energy Areas off North Carolina:
The Kitty Hawk Wind Energy Area begins about 24 nautical miles (nm) from shore and extends approximately 25.7 nm in a general southeast direction at its widest point. Its seaward extent ranges from 13.5 nm in the north to .6 nm in the south. It contains approximately 21.5 OCS blocks (122,405 acres).
The Wilmington West Wind Energy Area begins about 10 nm from shore and extends approximately 12.3 nm in an east - west direction at its widest point. It contains just over 9 OCS blocks (approximately 51,595 acres).
The Wilmington East Wind Energy Area begins about 15 nm from Bald Head Island at its closest point and extends approximately 18 nm in the southeast direction at its widest point. It contains approximately 25 OCS blocks (133,590 acres).
Map of North Carolina Wind Energy Areas, courtesy of BOEM.
The North Carolina auction will follow a series of similar auctions for East Coast offshore wind sites in federal waters over the past year, including sites off Massachusetts and Rhode Island
and will come after the scheduled August 19 auction for sites off Maryland
. To date, BOEM has awarded five commercial wind energy leases off the Atlantic coast: two non-competitive leases (for the proposed Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound and an area off Delaware) and three competitive leases (two offshore Massachusetts-Rhode Island and another offshore Virginia). Altogether, the competitive lease sales have generated more than $5 million in high bids for more than 277,500 acres in federal waters. BOEM expects to hold additional competitive auctions for wind energy areas offshore Massachusetts
and New Jersey
in the coming year.
When will North Carolina offshore wind sites be auctioned? Who will bid? Who will win -- and what will the high bid be? Perhaps most fundamentally, will the BOEM leasing process lead to anyone developing a offshore wind project off North Carolina?