Virginia and other mid-Atlantic states got good news Thursday in terms of moving forward with offshore wind energy. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Tommy P. Beaudreau announced that the department’s renewable energy initiative has cleared an important environmental review that will allow Interior to move forward with the process for wind energy lease sales off Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Delaware.
BOEM’s environmental assessment found that there would be no significant environmental and socioeconomic impacts from issuing wind energy leases in designated Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) areas off the mid-Atlantic Coast.
In another step forward, BOEM published Calls for Information and Nominations for Maryland and Virginia to solicit lease nominations.
The call is the first step in the leasing process. It describes areas that will be made available and solicits expression of interest from developers. Developers will have 45 days to respond to the call.
The bureau also announced the finalization of a lease form that will help streamline the issuance of renewable energy leases. “Offshore wind holds incredible potential for our country, and we’re moving full-steam ahead to accelerate the siting, leasing and construction of new projects,” Salazar said.
The news was welcomed in Virginia. “Cost-effective development of Virginia’s offshore wind resources is one important component of our overall effort to make Virginia ‘The Energy Capital of the East Coast,’ said Gov. Bob McDonnell. “America must continue to generate electricity from traditional sources such as coal, nuclear and natural gas, while moving forward in pursuit of innovative alternative sources like wind, solar and biomass. Our partnership with BOEM, and this step forward toward offshore wind development builds on the strong foundation laid by the Virginia Task Force and our private partners like the VOW Coalition, Huntington Ingalls, Gamesa and others.”
Reaction from environmental groups also was positive. Glen Besa, director of the Sierra Club’s Virginia Chapter, issued a statement saying, “We applaud BOEM’s initiative to fast-track the process to get us to this point today where Virginia’s offshore wind areas are now open for business. We have a tremendous product to offer with those wind turbines spinning off Virginia’s coast; it’s a product that supports the creation of over 10,000 Virginia jobs and powers over 700,000 Virginia homes.”
The wind area under consideration was identified through consultation with BOEM’s intergovernmental Virginia Renewable Energy Task Force. It contains 19 whole OCS blocks and 13 sub-blocks offshore Virginia. The western edge of the area is about 23.5 nautical miles from the Virginia Beach coastline. The entire area is approximately 112,799 acres. A map of what’s known as the Call Area can be found at http://www.boem.gov/Renewable-Energy-Program/State-Activities/Virginia.aspx. .
BOEM said it will use industry responses to its call for information to gauge specific interest in the commercial development of wind resources in the designated area. Depending on the response, the bureau may proceed with the competitive or noncompetitive leasing process. According to the BOEM, both leasing processes would include opportunities for public input and thorough environmental review.
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