The plan to issue wind energy leases off the N.C. coast has cleared a significant regulatory hurdle as the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced Thursday its environmental review is completed.
The revised assessment found there would be no significant environmental or socioeconomic effects from issuing leases within three wind energy areas off the coast, including one east of Corolla, Duck and Southern Shores.
The areas, which total about 307,590 acres, are the roughly 122,000-acre area northeast of Kitty Hawk and two areas, one 52,000 acres and the other more than 133,500 acres near Wilmington.
“After considering public input and conducting a thorough environmental review, we believe that wind leasing and site characterization activities can be done in a manner that will continue to allow for other uses, and be compatible with the environment,” said BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper.
As part of this revised environmental assessment, BOEM said it only considered the issuance of leases and approval of site characteristics, such as shallow hazards, geological, geotechnical, biological and archaeological surveys and assessment activities, such as the installation of meteorological towers and buoys.
BOEM said the study was conducted according to National Environmental Policy Act requirements.
BOEM is set to hold a public meeting to discuss its proposed approach for an offshore wind auction. The North Carolina Renewable Energy Task Force meeting is scheduled for Oct. 7 at the Coastline Conference and Event Center at 501 Nutt St. in Wilmington.
After considering the task force’s recommendations, BOEM is to publish its proposal via a “Proposed Sale Notice” in the Federal Register, which will include a 60-day public comment period.
If, after leases are issued, a lessee proposes to build a commercial wind energy facility, it must submit a construction and operations plan for BOEM’s review and approval. BOEM would then prepare a site-specific NEPA analysis for the project proposed.
In January 2015, BOEM published in the Federal Register an Environmental Assessment for public review. BOEM considered all comments received from cooperating agencies and stakeholders prior to determining leasing activities would not significantly impact existing high use and sensitive resource areas.
BOEM has awarded nine commercial wind leases, so far, including seven through its competitive lease sale process. Four are off the New England coast, two are off the Maryland coast and another is offshore Virginia.
To date, competitive lease sales have generated more than $14.5 million in high bids for over 700,000 acres in federal waters, according to BOEM. A competitive lease sale for a WEA offshore New Jersey is set for later this year.
More information about wind energy planning offshore North Carolina can be found at http://www.boem.gov/North-Carolina/.
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