US Starts Working on Offshore Wind Leasing in Oregon, Central Atlantic Coast

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has published two Calls for Information and Nominations to solicit information from the public and determine industry interest in potential commercial wind energy development offshore Oregon and in the Central Atlantic.

This was announced by BOEM Director Amanda Lefton at the International Offshore Wind Partnering (IPF) Forum in Atlantic City on 27 April. Lefton highlighted the Biden-Harris administration’s ambition to deploy 30 GW of offshore wind energy by 2030 and the potential to create tens of thousands of jobs.

The two Calls have opened a public comment period for each of the areas, which will run until 28 June, until when the public can submit relevant information on site conditions, marine resources, and ocean uses near or within the Call Areas. At the same time, offshore wind developers can nominate specific areas they would like to see offered for leasing.

For the Central Atlantic, BOEM is seeking information on six distinct areas covering almost 3.9 million acres, with the closest point to the shore of any of the areas located approximately 20 nautical miles (around 37 kilometres) off the Central Atlantic coast. 

The Call Area is located offshore the Commonwealth of Virginia and the States of Delaware, Maryland, and North Carolina, and the six areas include 496 whole Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) blocks and 298 partial blocks.

Central Atlantic Call Areas; Image: BOEM

The Oregon Call, the first action of its type off the Oregon coast, requests information on two areas that together comprise approximately 1,158,400 acres. Both areas – the Coos Bay Call Area and the Brookings Call Area – begin about 12 nautical miles (around 22 kilometres) from shore at their closest points, off the coast of central and southern Oregon, respectively. 

Oregon Call Areas; Image: BOEM

The two areas are put for this Call after BOEM announced earlier this year that it had identified three Call Areas in the Pacific Ocean offshore Oregon for wind energy development: Coos Bay, Bandon, and Brookings, which have a total installed capacity potential of 17 GW.

The agency said in February it would work on narrowing down the sites into Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) which could support 3 GW in the near term, with a lease sale expected in the first quarter of 2024, at the latest.

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Last month, BOEM completed its environmental review for two areas offshore North Carolina and South Carolina, which include 110,091 acres in the Carolina Long Bay, and said it would hold a wind energy auction on 11 May.

If developed, the two areas could bring in at least 1.3 GW of offshore wind energy, enough to power nearly 500,000 homes.

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Public comments and commercial nominations in response to the two Calls will allow BOEM to analyse potential use conflicts before designating specific wind energy areas (WEAs).

Following the designation of WEAs, BOEM will conduct environmental reviews in consultation with the appropriate Federal agencies, Tribes, State and local governments, and other key stakeholders, after which the government agency may propose one or more competitive lease sales for areas within the WEAs. 

The US offshore wind target, set by the Biden-Harris administration in March last year, is estimated to support around 77,000 direct and indirect jobs and trigger more than USD 12 billion (around EUR 10.2 billion) per year in capital investment in projects on both US coasts.

The 2030 target would also unlock a pathway to deploy 110 GW or more of offshore wind capacity by 2050, which would support a total of 135,000 jobs by that time.

As part of this ambition, BOEM has put the permitting process on a fast track and the country now has two commercial scale offshore wind farms under construction in federal waters: the 806 MW Vineyard Wind 1 and the 132 MW South Fork.

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In February, BOEM held the biggest US offshore wind auction ever, with six areas in the New York Bight awarded to companies and consortia who brought in a total of USD 4.37 billion in bids.

The agency has also started permitting process for several offshore wind farms and kicked off work on bringing several areas in both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans to lease sale.

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