Department Of Interior Initiates Process For Bluewater Wind Offshore Lease

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The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) is initiating the process to offer the first commercial wind lease under the Smart from the Start Atlantic Offshore Wind program off the coast of Delaware. The decision follows a determination that there is no competitive interest for commercial wind energy development in this area of the Outer Continental Shelf, precluding the need for competitive bidding.

Several steps remain before a lease can be issued, including environmental reviews and consultation with other federal, state, local and tribal organizations. Additionally, once a lease is issued, the developer will be required to submit a detailed construction and operation plan that will be subject to further environmental review and public comment before any final decision is made on a proposed project, according to the DOI.

‘It's encouraging to see the federal government putting some of its efforts into moving offshore wind energy forward,’ says Gov. Jack Markell, D-Del. ‘The decision recognizes the longer-term economic and environmental benefits the NRG Bluewater Wind project could provide Delaware and that the offshore wind industry could provide the nation.’

Bluewater Wind Delaware LLC has proposed a phased wind turbine development 11 miles east of Dewey Beach, Del. The company has an agreement with Delaware officials to sell offshore power to the state's largest utility, Delmarva.

To ascertain competitive interest, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) published a request for interest (RFI) in the Federal Register in April 2010 regarding wind energy development in federal waters offshore Delaware.

The bureau received only one response from a qualified organization to the RFI, and that was from Bluewater Wind Delaware. BOEMRE then published a second Federal Register notice in January to determine whether competitive interest existed for the area proposed by Bluewater Wind. The bureau did not receive any additional expressions of interest.

In response to concerns raised in public comments, BOEMRE will collaborate with the U.S. Coast Guard to better quantify the amount and location of vessel activity in the proposed lease area and will evaluate methods to analyze the effects of wind energy facilities and infrastructure on marine vessel traffic.

Additionally, in BOEMRE's National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review of potential effects associated with issuing a commercial wind energy lease and site characterization activities, the bureau will consider potential effects on commercial fishing and other activities within the proposed lease area prior to issuing the commercial lease to Bluewater Wind.

A more detailed NEPA analysis will cover the potential impacts to these resources from Bluewater's proposed wind facility installation, operations and decommissioning activities. These activities will be described in the company's construction and operation plan submitted after the commercial lease is executed.

BOEMRE will soon publish the decision to move forward with the noncompetitive leasing process in the Federal Register as a Determination of No Competitive Interest, as required by offshore renewable energy regulations.

SOURCE: U.S. Department of the Interior

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