UMaryland to lead offshore study

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science will lead a two-year research study of marine animals in and near an area off the state’s coast where the US Interior Department (DOI) on 19 August will auction two commercial wind energy leases.

DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), state agencies and future leaseholders will utilize information gathered from the study to help site and install the turbines, as well as identify ways to mitigate potential project impacts on whales and other marine life.

BOEM, which oversees offshore wind development in federal waters, is funding the $2.2m study along with the Maryland Energy Administration.

BOEM has identified a 79,707 acre (322.5sq km) Wind Energy Area, located between 18.5km and 42.5km from Ocean City. Plans call for a competitive lease auction for both the 132.5sq km North Lease Area and 190sq km South Lease Area.

Each lease area contains five whole blocks and some partial ones.

If fully developed, both tracts could support between 850MW and 1.45GW of wind generation capacity, enough electricity for 300,000 homes, according to the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Both has qualified 16 companies for the auction. They are Apex Offshore Maryland; Bluewater Wind Maryland; Convalt Energy; Dominion; EDF Renewable Energy; Energy Management, Inc.; Fishermen’s Energy; Green Sail Energy; Iberdrola Renewables; Maryland Offshore Wind; Orisol Energy US; RES America Developments; SCS Maryland Energy; Sea Breeze Energy; Seawind Renewable Energy Corporation and US Wind.

The auction will be the third along the US Atlantic seaboard after successful lease sales last year involving tracts off Massachusetts-Rhode Island and Virginia.