The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has named eight draft Wind Energy Areas (WEA) off the shores of the central Atlantic coast for public review and comment.
The draft WEAs cover approximately 1.7 million acres off the shores of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, with their closest points ranging from approximately 19 to 77 nautical miles off the U.S. central Atlantic coast.
“As BOEM moves forward to identify wind energy areas in the central Atlantic, we continue to prioritize a robust and transparent process, including early engagement with Tribal governments, state and federal agencies and ocean users,” says BOEM Director Amanda Lefton. “We want to gather as much information and traditional knowledge as possible to help us identify Wind Energy Areas – the offshore areas that are most suitable for commercial wind energy activities while having the fewest apparent environmental and user conflicts.”
BOEM used a comprehensive process to identify the potential offshore locations that appear most suitable for renewable energy development, taking into consideration possible impacts to local resources and ocean users. BOEM collaborated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science to use an ocean planning model that seeks to minimize conflicts.
The eight draft WEAs represent a subset of the original 3.9 million acres of the Call Area that the Department of the Interior announced for public comment in April.
The final WEAs may be further modified after incorporating feedback from government partners, ocean users, and stakeholders. BOEM is seeking comment on potential conflicts with the draft areas, including with a potential U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) fairway for transiting vessels, commercial fishing, a NASA danger zone and marine habitat areas.
BOEM intends to further explore these areas with the Department of Defense, USCG, NASA and other ocean users, such as the fishing industry, to collect additional information that should be considered before finalizing the WEAs.
Under President Joe Biden and Secretary Deb Haaland’s leadership, the Interior Department has approved the nation’s first two commercial-scale, offshore wind projects, initiated environmental reviews for 10 additional projects, held record-breaking lease sales, and ushered in billions of dollars in private investment. This growing industry will provide Americans with cleaner energy, create thousands of good-paying jobs, and lead to billions of dollars in investment in manufacturing, shipbuilding, and support services.
The next step in BOEM’s renewable energy leasing process offshore the U.S. central Atlantic coast is a 30-day public comment period starting Nov. 16, 2022. During the comment period, BOEM will hold virtual meetings to engage the fishing community and environmental organizations to gather more information on the WEAs and discuss next steps.
These meetings will be open to the public. To comment on the draft WEAs please go to regulations.gov and search for docket number BOEM-2022-0072. BOEM will accept comments from Nov. 16, 2022, through 11:59 pm ET on Dec. 16, 2022.