The US has moved to streamline how it coordinates construction of offshore wind power plant off its coasts, with the signing of a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Safety & Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) that aims to “strengthen the collaborative strategy” for regulating the soon-to-boom sector.
The MOA is designed to “clarify the bureaus’ roles and responsibilities and promote the efficient use of resources to enhance the nation’s renewable energy production” on outer continental shelf (OCS) waters, the two bodies said in a statement.
“For several years BSEE has closely partnered with BOEM to ensure responsible development of renewable energy resources on the OCS,” said BSEE director Scott Angelle.
“This MOA clarifies BSEE’s role in developing the safety and environmental compliance functions of the program that are critical to BOEM’s management of the program’s planning and development.”
BOEM acting director Walter Cruickshank said: “Since 2009, BOEM has overseen the significant growth of renewable energy in the US thanks to our strong partnerships with BSEE and other federal agencies, as well as state and local leadership.
“We appreciate the critical information provided by our key stakeholders, such as commercial fishers, to inform our decision-making processes, and we look forward to continuing these relationships as we work with BSEE to ensure the renewable energy industry incorporates safety and environmental compliance measures throughout the installation and operation of offshore facilities.”
The US offshore wind industry is set to power up over the coming decade with as much as 25-30GW in new installations as utility-scale projects, led by the 800MW Vineyard Wind, are brought online, but has been beset by issues ranging from frictions with the regional fisheries sector to the slow-rolling federal leasing process, which some analysts have warned could result in half this capacity being built to current project schedules.
The US National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates there is a 2TW offshore wind resource – equal to twice the nation’s current electricity use – flowing over the the country’s Pacific and Atlantic oceans that could be commercially developed to meet some 20% of total energy demand.
Democratic lawmakers in the House of Representatives introduced climate legislation last October that included setting America's first national offshore wind goals of 12.5GW in federal waters by 2025 and 25GW by 2030, and would extend leasing and development activities to US territories.