Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced plans for up to seven new offshore wind lease sales, from Maine to the Gulf of Mexico and in the Pacific off California and Oregon, at the American Clean Power Association’s offshore wind conference Oct. 12 in Boston, Mass.
“This timetable provides two crucial ingredients for success: increased certainty and transparency,” Haaland said in an address to the industry advocacy group.
With the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management accelerating its timetable to review wind developers’ plans and prepare future lease offerings, agency officials are insisting they learned from mistakes dealing with the Northeast commercial fishing industry, and will work with them and other stakeholders “to minimize conflict with existing uses and marine life.”
“We are working to facilitate a pipeline of projects that will establish confidence for the offshore wind industry,” BOEM Director Amanda Lefton said. “At the same time, we want to reduce potential conflicts as much as we can while meeting the Administration’s goal to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030. This means we will engage early and often with all stakeholders prior to identifying any new Wind Energy Areas.”
Future leases in deep water off California and Oregon — and the Gulf of Maine — would require floating turbines, anchored by cable with larger bottom footprints that the monopile foundations planned for projects on the East Coast outer continental shelf.
In mid-July the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, a fishing industry coalition, received $155,000 grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will fund a symposium on how floating offshore wind turbine may interact with fisheries.
Oregon state energy planners are working on a preliminary floating offshore wind study to be delivered to state lawmakers in September 2022.
The project seeks to summarize “the benefits and challenges of integrating up to 3 GW of floating offshore wind into Oregon's electric grid by 2030.”
In its early stage of reviewing what’s already known about the technology, the study will ask fishermen and other stakeholders for input on topics including “reliability, state renewable energy goals, jobs, equity and resilience.” At least two public meetings will be held during this initial stage, state officials say.
In mid-October the Department of Energy awarded a $2 million grant to Oregon State University’s Marine Mammal Institute to collect data about distribution and density of marine mammals and seabirds that will be used to inform decisions about offshore wind energy development.
Led by institute director Lisa T. Balance, the project will include visual and acoustic surveys off the West Coast from Cape Mendocino, Calif., to the mouth of the Columbia River on the Oregon/Washington border and west to the continental slope.
The four-year project will conduct those visual surveys and passive acoustic monitoring of seabirds, whales, dolphins and porpoises during all seasons.
Researchers also will collect identification photographs of individual baleen whales, data from satellite-tagged whales and DNA profiles. The data will provide detailed insight into whale behavior, population identity and site fidelity — meaning the likelihood that individual animals will return to the same location each year.
Along with that new data, historical data and data being collected as part of other research projects will be used to generate species distribution models that can predict species density and distribution throughout the region.
Nationally the Department of Energy is putting up $13.5 million for such projects “that will inform offshore wind siting, permitting and help protect wildlife and fisheries as offshore wind deployment increases.” Two of the projects will support wildlife and fisheries monitoring efforts on the East Coast, with the other two focused on “preparing the West Coast for floating offshore wind development by collecting wildlife distribution data and developing tools to monitor the environmental effects of floating offshore wind energy,” according to DOE officials.
To investigate potential Pacific wind sites, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts will develop next‐generation autonomous robotic technology for environmental monitoring of marine organisms and the seafloor at potential wind energy development areas, funded at $750,000.
While the first fully permitted offshore wind project is moving forward with Vineyard Wind off Massachusetts, the progress of others is far from assured.
Empire Offshore Wind, a joint venture that Equinor and BP Energy plan off New York Harbor, announced an agreement with turbine manufacturer Vestas for 15-megawatt turbines — up to 138 machines that would provide 2 gigawatts potential for the two-phase project.
But the partners also filed a motion with federal energy regulators saying the projected completion date of the first Empire Wind I 816-MW stage should be pushed back to late 2026, citing the lengthy process for obtaining permits and construction offshore.
The venture is being squeezed by an agreement with the New York Independent System Operator grid operator that called for Empire Wind to be feeding power onshore by June 14, 2025. In its filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the developers said it’s impossible to meet that date with the now-anticipated timelines.
“Given the expected timelines for receiving action on key permits and governmental approvals, coupled with the inherent complexities of constructing and commissioning New York state’s first large-scale offshore wind generating facility, Empire Wind currently anticipates that the project will achieve COD (commercial operation date) on or before December 2026,” according to the developers’ petition document filed with FERC.
Nevertheless, wind industry advocates sound relentlessly upbeat with the Biden administration at their back.
At the Business Network for Offshore Wind’s August conference in Richmond, Va., CEO David Hardy of Ørsted Offshore North America said his company and partner Eversource could start their South Fork wind project east of Montauk, N.Y. next year after BOEM and the partners resolve issues like preserving critical bottom habitat for fisheries by shifting turbine and cable locations.
“At Ørsted we’re trying to do right by all stakeholders,” said Hardy.
“We want to do it with an eye toward the long-term sustainability of the business,” said Hardy. “There’s been tremendous progress in the last eight months, but this is still a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Speaking by an online video link, Tommy Beaudreau, deputy secretary of the Department of the Interior, said offshore wind planning has advanced far from his time as BOEM director during the Obama administration.
“In a relatively short period of time we’ve broken through a lot of problems,” said Beaudreau. With the Biden renewable energy policy moves, “These are exciting times,” he added. “It’s only been eight months.”