Recent reports declaring Austin, Tex.-based Baryonyx Corp. as having the inside track to build the first offshore wind farm in North America are a bit premature and somewhat misleading, according to a company official.
Baryonyx intends to build three wind farms off the coast of Texas accounting for more than 3 GW in installed capacity. The Texas General Land Office has granted Baryonyx leases for 67,500 acres of submerged land extending 9.2 nautical miles from Corpus Christie and Brownsville.
According to Mark Leyland, senior vice president of offshore wind projects for Baryonyx Corp., the wind farm could be rolled out in stages of 300 MW to 400 MW each, with the first phase beginning in 2015.
Some claim that because the Baryonyx project is overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the developer has a leg up on other offshore developers, which must work under the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), an agency often criticized for its slow approval times.
‘I don't think that is true,’ responds Leyland.
Although developing in Texas carries some unique attributes, such as the state controlling permitting, Leyland says any attempts to minimize the USACE's oversight requirements are off base.
‘It may be more straightforward, but to characterize it as easy would be disrespectful to the Army Corps and the other federal agencies on the project,’ he says, noting the other agencies on the project, such as the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Furthermore, he says that with many federal agencies involved with the project, the wind farm will be held to the same requirements and restrictions as offshore wind projects located in the Northeast.
For example, Leyland says the USACE will require Baryonyx to complete an environmental impact statement, a process that could take two years or longer to complete.
‘Developing in Texas is not easier; it's just different,’ Leyland explains.
For example, he says, the state – not the feds – controls lease block issuances. Furthermore, the offshore lease blocks secured by the company were much larger than the first lease blocks granted by BOEMRE for projects located in waters off the Northeast. Therefore, larger lease blocks equate to a larger nameplate capacity than the company's Northeastern counterparts.
Baryonyx is no stranger to building offshore wind projects. Several company executives formerly worked at U.K.-based renewables developer Eclipse Energy before it was acquired by Sweden-based utility Vattenfall in November 2008.
Among the projects developed by Eclipse are Ormonde, a 150 MW offshore wind farm located in the Irish Sea that features 5 MW machines from REpower.
According to Leyland, Baryonyx has not yet settled on a turbine supplier, although he envisions using the turbines in the 5 MW or above class to power the project. Â