On October 28, 2021, in furtherance of the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of deploying 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind energy by 2030, the US Department of the Interior announced three major offshore wind development proposals.
First, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced a proposed lease sale for offshore wind development for approximately 128,000 acres in the Carolina Long Bay area offshore the Carolinas. The proposed lease sale area will include a majority of the Wilmington East Wind Energy area and has the potential for more than 1.5 GW of offshore wind energy. The Proposed Sale Notice, which will be published in the Federal Register on November 1, contains information pertaining to the proposed lease sale area, certain provisions and conditions of the lease, auction details, lease forms, criteria for evaluating competing bids, award procedures, appeal procedures and lease execution procedures. BOEM is requesting public comments for 60 days on, among other things, potentially dividing the proposed lease area into as many as three lease areas and using a “multi-factor auction format,” which would include a monetary bid and bidding credits to determine the outcome of the auction. BOEM plans to host an auction seminar to discuss the auction format for prospective bidders.
Second, for Mayflower Wind’s proposed offshore wind project off Massachusetts, BOEM announced a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act. The EIS will evaluate Mayflower Wind’s project-specific construction and operation plan, which proposes to construct and operate up to 147 wind turbines and up to five offshore power substations approximately 30 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and 23 miles south of Nantucket, Massachusetts. The proposed project has the potential to generate over 2 GW of offshore wind energy. The notice will be published in the Federal Register on November 1, commencing a 30-day public review and comment period. During this time, BOEM will be holding three virtual public meetings. Based on comments received, BOEM will determine the scope of its environmental review and impact-producing factors, reasonable alternatives and potential mitigating measures that should be analyzed in the EIS. This environmental review process is estimated to take roughly two years, at which time BOEM will decide whether to approve Mayflower Wind’s construction and operation plan.
Lastly, BOEM announced a call for information and nominations to further assess commercial interest in commercial wind energy leasing in the Gulf of Mexico. Based on the expressions of interests received in response to its June 2021 request for interest, BOEM seeks further expressions of interest and comments on a 30 million-acre call area just west of the Mississippi River to the Texas/Mexican border. The call will be published in the Federal Register on November 1, commencing a 45-day public review and comment period. BOEM will review comments reviewed, conduct an environment review and consult with tribes and federal and state agencies before deciding whether and where leases may be issued in the Gulf of Mexico.