BOEM Improves Offshore Wind Site Identification Processes

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has decided to improve its processes for identifying future offshore wind sites that will be applied to ongoing planning efforts in the Gulf of Mexico, Central Atlantic and Gulf of Maine, and off the Oregon coast.

In response to feedback from BOEM’s government partners and other stakeholders, the agency made improvements in the following areas: best available science and modeling, and increased, meaningful engagement and transparency.

To provide the best available science and modeling, BOEM uses scientific data and research to inform decisions regarding renewable energy planning, leasing, and development efforts on the US Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), the agency said.

According to BOEM, the agency also consults with ocean users to select the best available science and modeling approaches and will continue to use the latest scientific data to identify areas on the US OCS with the fewest environmental impacts and least conflicts, while still being technically and economically feasible for potential offshore wind projects.

To achieve that, BOEM is working with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) to employ a spatial model that analyses entire marine ecosystems to identify the best areas for wind sites in the Gulf of Mexico, Central Atlantic and Gulf of Maine, and offshore Oregon.

This ocean planning tool could help inform BOEM’s draft wind energy areas (WEAs), which will be available for public review and comment prior to final WEA designations.

BOEM and NOAA recently collaborated to use the NCCOS tool to identify WEAs in the Gulf of Mexico.

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The first draft WEA is located approximately 24 nautical miles (nm) off the coast of Galveston, Texas. The area for review totals 546,645 acres and has the potential to power 2.3 million homes with clean wind energy.

The second draft WEA is located approximately 56 nm off the coast of Lake Charles, Louisiana. The area for review totals 188,023 acres and has the potential to power 799,000 homes.

To achieve increased, meaningful engagement and transparency, BOEM will release draft WEAs for public review and comment prior to designating final WEAs in the Central Atlantic and Gulf of Maine and offshore Oregon.

This should create a more transparent and inclusive process to identify WEAs, according to BOEM.

The agency recently made available a Request for Interest (RFI) and Request for Competitive Interest (RFCI) in the Federal Register for public comment to advance offshore wind planning and leasing in the Gulf of Maine.

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