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US offshore wind site leasing to move full steam ahead

Federal government gives green light to offshore development off the Mid-Atlantic coast

Secretary of the interior Ken Salazar at AWEA’s offshore conference last year
Secretary of the interior Ken Salazar at AWEA’s offshore conference last year, has given the OK to issue site leases for projects off the Atlantic coast

Offshore wind development in the US has taken a major step forward after the federal government confirmed the sale of site leases for project development off Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Delaware can proceed. The announcement came after a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) assessment by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) concluded there would be no significant environmental and socioeconomic impacts from issuing wind energy leases in designated Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) areas off the mid-Atlantic Coast.

Ken Salazar, secretary of the interior, said: “Offshore wind holds incredible potential for our country, and we’re moving full-steam ahead to accelerate the siting, leasing and construction of new projects.”

BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau, said: “We considered public input and conducted a thorough analysis to ensure future projects are sited in the right places, where the wind energy potential is significant and where environmental effects and conflicts with other uses can be minimized and managed,”

The bureau also announced the finalisation of a first-of-its-kind lease form that will help streamline the issuance of renewable energy leases on the OCS. Financial and other terms, as well as any site-specific mitigation measures, will be added to each individual lease before it is executed.

BOEM also published Calls for Information and Nominations for Maryland and Virginia to solicit lease nominations from industry and request public comments regarding site conditions, resources and multiple uses of the Wind Energy Areas.

“We are moving toward commercial-scale offshore wind energy leasing in the mid-Atlantic and adding the necessary tools to offer those leases,” said Beaudreau.

BOEM will use its environmental assessment to inform future leasing decisions in the mid-Atlantic Wind Energy Areas and to review site assessment plans. If a

lessee proposes a wind energy generation project on its lease, BOEM would prepare a separate site- and project-specific analysis under NEPA of its construction and operations plan, and provide additional opportunities for public involvement.

Denise Bode, chief executive officer of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) welcomed the news, hailing it as “a significant milestone in efforts to launch a vital new American offshore wind industry”.