BOEM Takes First Step Towards Gulf of Maine Offshore Wind Leasing
The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has published the Gulf of Maine Call for Information and Nominations to assess interest in possible commercial offshore wind development in areas offshore Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine, and to gather public comment.
This is an early step in the commercial planning and leasing process and the first step required by BOEM regulations. The federal agency will publish the Call in the Federal Register on 26 April, which will initiate a 45-day public comment period.
After the public comment period closes, BOEM will review and analyse commercial nominations and public comments it received, and will also consider information from government and Tribal consultations and the Gulf of Maine Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force to further evaluate the appropriateness of the Call Area for offshore wind energy development.
BOEM issued a Request for Interest (RFI) for the Gulf of Maine in the Federal Register in August 2022 and, by October 2022, received nominations of areas of interest from Avangrid Renewables, TotalEnergies, Hexicon, Mainstream Renewable Power, and Pine Tree Offshore Wind (a consortium comprising the State of Maine, the University of Maine, and a joint venture between Diamond Offshore Wind and RWE Renewables).
Based on the feedback received during the public comment period and industry nominations through the RFI, as well as spatial analysis performed in partnership with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Center for Coastal and Ocean Science (NCCOS), BOEM reduced the original RFI area and published the Draft Call Area in January 2023.
Following this, the agency hosted a series of information exchanges on the Draft Call Area from January-February 2023 to get feedback from Tribes, states, existing ocean users, and the general public. The Final Call Area, published yesterday (25 April), shows the reduced RFI area that covers 9.8 million acres, a nearly 30 per cent reduction.
“In the Final Call Area, BOEM removed approximately 160,000 acres from future consideration to avoid Georges Bank. The Call Area remains broad to provide flexibility to minimise conflicts with other uses. BOEM will use a powerful spatial analytical tool, called an ecosystem-wide suitability model, developed in partnership with NCCOS, to help identify where conflicts may exist and inform decisions regarding the most appropriate Wind Energy Areas to meet the states’ and Biden-Harris administration’s offshore renewable energy goals”, BOEM said on 25 April.
During this phase of public comment, BOEM is specifically seeking public input on four areas it identified through the information exchanges on the Draft Call Area: Lobster Management Area I, Platts Bank, Atlantic Large Whale Take Reduction Plan Restricted Areas, and Georges Bank. This is not an exhaustive list and it represents the areas that were most commented on in the most recent public engagement, BOEM says.
For the Gulf of Maine, BOEM also issued a separate Request for Competitive Interest (RFCI) in August 2022 as part of processing the State of Maine’s application for a research lease, which covers 68,320 acres and expands upon Maine’s requested research lease area to allow future siting flexibility to avoid or minimise conflicts with existing ocean users should a lease, either research or commercial.
In January, BOEM announced the Determination for No Competitive Interest (DNCI) for the State of Maine’s research application and moved forward with the State of Maine’s research application.
The State of Maine submitted a request for a research lease in October 2021, seeking 9,700 acres on the US Outer Continental Shelf at a location more than 20 nautical miles off the Maine coast for a 144 MW floating wind project.
The DNCI, published in the Federal Register last month, does not guarantee that the State of Maine will receive a research lease, according to BOEM, and needs to complete all the permitting steps, including an environmental review of potential impacts from offshore wind leasing activities associated with the research lease.
According to the timeline for offshore wind lease sales in the US published by the Department of the Interior (DOI) in 2021, BOEM is planned to designate Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) in the Gulf of Maine until the fourth quarter of this year and hold an offshore wind auction in 2024.
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