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Carolinas offshore shake-up

The US has shifted strategy for leasing offshore wind tracts along the coast of North Carolina, where more than 300,000 acres have been identified for development.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has moved two of three proposed wind energy areas into the South Carolina leasing process, the agency said in a task force meeting on 19 April.

The 51,600-acre Wilmington West and 133,600-acre Wilmington East tracts border the much larger 628,000-acre Grand Strand lease area in South Carolina and have been realigned into that state.

Concerns over wake effect, visual impacts and an expansion of the North Atlantic right whale critical habitat prompted the move, said BOEM.

In North Carolina BOEM is going ahead with commercial leasing for the remaining 122,400-acre Kitty Hawk area. Task force members are reviewing a draft proposed sale notice and call for interest, which the agency expects to launch this summer.

It will be the last chance for developers interested in acquiring a lease to submit qualifications.

Five developers responded to a 2012 call: Dominion Virginia Power, EDF, Fishermen’s Energy, Green Sail Energy and Outer Banks Ocean Energy, a subsidiary of Apex Wind Energy.

If there continues to be competitive interest BOEM plans to issue a final sale notice in early 2017. An auction would follow in late winter or early spring of that year.

The agency is proposing to lease the whole Kitty Hawk area to one developer. The tract starts 24 nautical miles offshore and water depths range from 27m to 41m.

In South Carolina BOEM previously had identified four areas in total. The North and South Carolina task forces will merge to take over planning and analysis. A meeting is planned 17 May.

BOEM received commercial interest in all the areas in response to a 2015 call.

US Wind and Fishermen’s Energy put their names next to the Grand Strand zone. Fishermen’s also nominated the Cape Romain, Winyah and Charleston call areas.

The bureau is reviewing the developers’ qualifications to determine if it will proceed with a competitive or non-competitive lease process. BOEM also is preparing an environmental assessment for the call areas.