The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has completed an environmental review, allowing it to move forward with its process for considering a renewable energy lease sale offshore North Carolina.
BOEM’s revised environmental assessment (EA), which was conducted according to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements, found there would be no significant environmental or socioeconomic impacts from issuing wind energy leases within three Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) offshore North Carolina.
The WEAs, which total approximately 307,590 acres, include the Kitty Hawk WEA (about 122,405 acres), the Wilmington West WEA (about 51,595 acres), and the Wilmington East WEA (about 133,590 acres).
“After considering public input and conducting a thorough environmental review, we believe that wind leasing and site characterization activities can be done in a manner that will continue to allow for other uses, and be compatible with the environment,” said BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper.
As part of this revised EA, BOEM only considered the issuance of leases and approval of site characterization (e.g., shallow hazard, geological, geotechnical, biological, and archaeological surveys) and assessment activities (e.g. installation of meteorological towers and buoys).
The next step in the leasing process is for BOEM to hold a North Carolina Renewable Energy Task Force meeting, which will be open to the public, to discuss BOEM’s proposed approach for an offshore wind auction. The meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, October 7 at the Coastline Conference & Event Center located on 501 Nutt Street, Wilmington, NC.
After considering Task Force input, BOEM will publish its proposal via a “Proposed Sale Notice” in the Federal Register, which will include a 60-day public comment period.
If, after leases are issued, a lessee proposes to construct a commercial wind energy facility, it must submit a construction and operations plan for BOEM’s review and approval. BOEM would then prepare a site-specific NEPA analysis for the project proposed.
In January 2015, BOEM published in the Federal Register an Environmental Assessment for public review. BOEM considered all comments received from cooperating agencies and stakeholders prior to determining leasing activities would not significantly impact existing high use and sensitive resource areas.
Today’s announcement builds on BOEM’s recent activities to grow offshore renewable energy through the leasing of WEAs. BOEM has awarded nine commercial wind leases, including seven through its competitive lease sale process (two offshore Rhode Island-Massachusetts, two offshore Massachusetts, two offshore Maryland and one offshore Virginia). To date, competitive lease sales have generated more than $14.5 million in high bids for over 700,000 acres in federal waters. BOEM is expected to hold a competitive lease sale for a WEA offshore New Jersey later this year.