The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced Dec. 12 that it is publishing a Call for Information and Nominations to explore the offshore wind industry’s interest in entering into commercial wind leases in three locations off the coast of North Carolina.
The agency, part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, also announced that it is publishing a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an environmental assessment and is seeking public comment to identify potential environmental, socioeconomic and other impacts the commercial wind leases may have on the call areas.
“The call covers what we have known as areas 1, 2 and 5 – now dubbed Call Area Kitty Hawk, Call Area Wilmington East and Call Area Wilmington West,” explained Jennifer Banks, Wind Energy Project coordinator at N.C. State University’s North Carolina Solar Center.
“This is an important step for offshore wind in North Carolina and I encourage everyone to weigh in during the 45 day comment period. The areas will continue to be refined based on comments received during this time and results of ongoing working groups organized by BOEM.”
BOEM will also host public meetings in January to discuss findings of its visualization study of 18 sites along coastal North Carolina with views of a 200 turbine wind project. “Each site and scenario are shown under four different conditions – early morning, late afternoon, starlit night and foggy night,” Banks said. “Time lapse videos are also available for a subset of the sites and scenarios. A critical piece of this study is the meteorological report, which provides data on the average visibility for certain distances offshore in North Carolina as well as specific data for visibility at each visualization site.”
Banks said she was pleased by BOEM’s announcement: “The benefits to North Carolina from offshore wind development and the associated economic development from the industry’s supply chain are tremendous.” She added that North Carolina – with 195 whole and 60 partial lease blocks – has the largest Call Area yet released under the “Smart from the Start” wind energy initiative launched in 2010 by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.
The program focuses on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf and is intended to facilitate identifying sites, creating leases and constructing new wind energy projects. The initiative “will allow us to identify priority Wind Energy Areas for potential development, improve our coordination with local, state, and federal partners, and accelerate the leasing process,” Salazar said. “If we are wise with our planning, we can help build a robust and environmentally responsible offshore renewable energy program that creates jobs here at home.”
The call area on the Outer Banks is located six miles offshore Kitty Hawk. The two other coastal N.C. areas are located seven and 13 miles offshore southern Wilmington. Special emphases of the program include identifying and announcing locations that have been determined to be attractive for commercial offshore wind development, ensuring the preservation of sensitive habitats and resources and keeping use conflicts with other activities such as military operations, shipping and fishing to a minimum. Mitigation measures and additional regulations may be developed based on comments and assessments.
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