More than 110,000 acres off North and South Carolina are being offered for offshore wind energy leasing, with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management planning a May 11 auction.

The Carolina Long Bay wind energy area is reduced by 14 percent from its initial proposed sale notice in November 2021, based on a review of scientific information and advice from the commercial fishing industry and other ocean stakeholders, BOEM said in announcing Friday that it has completed an environmental review.

More than 13,000 acres were taken out of consideration early because of concerns raised in beachfront communities about the visual effect of turbines offshore.

If fully developed the two lease tracts could accommodate up to 1.3 gigawatts of wind generation capacity, according to the agency. Its initial offering has attracted information submitted by 16 potential bidders.

Wind industry advocates hailed the announcement – but also called for Congress to repeal a Trump administration moratorium on offshore energy development off the Southeast states, before it can take effect July 1.

With his fall 2020 re-election campaign in high gear, former president Donald Trump suddenly reversed his pledge to open more U.S. continental shelf waters for energy leasing.

Trump’s drilling moratorium was a bid for votes from Florida to the Carolinas, both shocking oil companies and worrying wind power advocates that it would likewise hobble their efforts. The American Clean Power Association said it’s time to reverse the moratorium.

“We also call on Congress to facilitate even more leasing off the Southeast U.S. by acting now to repeal the 10-year moratorium on offshore wind leasing off the coasts of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida in the final, conferenced version of the Senate’s The United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2022 and the House’s America COMPETES Act of 2022,” said Josh Kaplowitz, the association’s vice president for offshore wind. “If the moratorium is allowed to take effect on July 1, it would severely constrain the anticipated economic and environmental benefits of offshore wind in the Southeast and beyond.”

The Carolina Long Bay lease conditions include new stipulations from BOEM, including an offer of a 20 percent credit to developers to invest in programs that will advance U.S. offshore wind energy workforce training or supply chain development.”

Other incentives include union labor agreements and investing in Jones Act-complaint U.S. flag vessels.

“The delineation of the two areas takes into consideration stakeholder comments while ensuring sufficient area to meet Federal and State renewable energy goals,” according to the BOEM notice.

Both lease areas have similar acreages, distances to shore, resource potential and potential wake effects between turbines, the agency says. It will allow “bidders to win one or both areas in the auction to allow for a balance between competitive and economic benefits, and the desire to utilize economies of scale.”

Among its responses to some 60 commenters during the environmental review process, BOEM planners note some issues with navigation await resolution with Coast Guard. Those include a proposed shipping safety fairway, up to 15 nautical miles wide, through the region.

Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for more than 30 years and a 25-year field editor for National Fisherman before joining our Commercial Marine editorial staff in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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