US defines NC offshore wind areas

The US Interior Department (DOI) says it has designated three areas off the coast of North Carolina totaling 307,590 acres (1,245sq km) for commercial wind development.

The tracts include Kitty Hawk (about 122,405 acres), Wilmington West (about 51,595 acres) and Wilmington East (about 133,590 acres).

Kitty Hawk is off the state’s northern coast. It begins about 24 nautical miles (44.4km) from shore and extends 25.7nm in a general southeast direction at its widest point. Its seaward extent ranges from 13.5nm in the north to six nm in the south. It contains 21.5 blocks.

Wilmington West and East are off the southern coast northeast of Myrtle Beach.

Wilmington West begins about 10 nm from shore and extends approximately 12.3 nm in an east-west direction at its widest point. It contains just over nine blocks.

Wilmington East begins about 15 nm from Bald Head Island at its closest point and extends approximately 18 nm in the southeast direction at its widest point. It contains 25 blocks.

DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will now complete an Environment Assessment (EA) to determine potential impacts associated with issuing leases and approving site assessment activities in the areas.

BOEM says that leases for the areas would be issued after a competitive auction involving pre-qualified developers.

At this time, the agency is only considering the issuance of leases and approval of site assessment plans at this time.

If it does issue leases, BOEM will require the leaseholder to complete a construction and operations plan, and a site-specific environmental analysis for an offshore wind farm.

“Today represents an important step forward for North Carolina in harnessing the vast wind energy potential along the Atlantic Coast to power homes and strengthen our clean energy economy,” says Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

The announcement builds on BOEM’s recent activities to grow offshore renewable energy through the leasing of Wind Energy Areas.

It has awarded five commercial wind energy leases off the Atlantic coast including two non-competitive leases (for the proposed Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound and an area off Delaware).

The three competitive leases (two offshore Massachusetts-Rhode Island and another offshore Virginia). The competitive lease sales generated more than $5m in high bids for more than 277,500 acres in federal waters.

BOEM will hold a competitive auction for an area offshore Maryland on 19 August. In 2015, it will do the same for areas off the coasts of Massachusetts and New Jersey.