The U.S. Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Bureau (BOEM) have announced the first-ever competitive lease sale for renewable energy on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The auction, scheduled to take place on July 31, will offer 164,750 acres offshore Rhode Island and Massachusetts for commercial wind energy leasing.
Governor Lincoln Chafee and U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse applauded the announcement as another significant step toward successfully utilizing the favorable conditions of Rhode Island waters for the production of renewable energy.
“I am proud to say that Rhode Island truly is a leader in pursuing a variety of forms of clean, renewable energy,” Governor Chafee said. “A great deal of hard work and collaboration went into Rhode Island’s Special Area Management Plan, and now we are poised to take another step forward in developing substantial offshore wind capabilities in our waters. Rhode Island is an ideal location for wind farms, as well as for the production needs for turbines and other materials. All of this means less dependence on fossil fuels and more jobs for Rhode Islanders. We will continue to pursue any and all forms of clean, renewable energy, because it is the right direction for our economy and the right thing to do for our environment.”
“Today’s announcement is an important step towards creating clean energy right here in Rhode Island,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. “Wind farms can spawn a new manufacturing industry for our state. I’m glad BOEM responded to our request to quickly and thoughtfully advance this process.” Rhode Island has been a leader in exploring the development of offshore wind energy. The Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) adopted the Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) on August 19, 2010 as the enforceable policies and recommendations for promoting balanced uses within the Ocean SAMP study area. Rhode Island is the only state in the country that has adopted a SAMP in federal waters with a specific focus on the development of offshore renewable energy resources. The Ocean SAMP was approved by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration thereby requiring federal consistency for any development that takes place within the Ocean SAMP boundary.
The partnership between Rhode Island and BOEM officials provided critical scientific and technical information for identifying the appropriate areas for offshore renewable energy development of the Outer Continental Shelf. The process would not be where it is today without the critical research and information provided by the Ocean SAMP. Rhode Island intends to continue to be a leader, utilizing the natural capital found throughout our state’s academic universities, while continuing to position our state as a regional and national knowledge hub for our country’s renewable energy sector.
Significant investments on behalf of the State of Rhode Island and its partners have been made to move our country forward with its first viable offshore wind project. Throughout Rhode Island’s leadership on the Ocean SAMP process, Rhode Island invested over $10 million to help inform the site selection process for both state and federal waters for offshore wind development. This wealth of information was used by BOEM to facilitate the Environmental Assessment completed last summer, and will continue to be used to facilitate the Environmental Impact Statement that will come with the filing of a Construction and Operation Plan by a developer.
The Wind Energy Area offshore Rhode Island and Massachusetts covers about 164,750 acres and is located 9.2 nautical miles south of the Rhode Island coastline. BOEM will auction the area as two leases, referred to as the North Lease Area (Lease OCS-A0486) and the South Lease Area (Lease OCS-A0487). The North Lease Area consists of about 97,500 acres and the South Lease Area covers about 67,250 acres.
According to a report recently released by the Department of Energy National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the North Lease Area has the potential for installed capacity of 1,955 megawatts (MW), and the South Lease Area, 1,440 MW. Together, these areas could support enough electricity to power more than 1 million homes, a significant increase over what BOEM had originally estimated last year. For a map of the Wind Energy Area, click the link below.
The lease areas will be auctioned simultaneously. Under the procedures, BOEM will consider nonmonetary (i.e., whether a bidder holds a Joint Development Agreement or a Power Purchase Agreement) and monetary (cash bid) factors. The nonmonetary phase of the auction will begin on July 29, 2013, and the monetary phase on July 31, 2013.
Press release, June 5, 2013; Image: DOI