Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management considers cable plan to wire ocean floor for wind farms
Atlantic Coast – As New Jersey and New York governors press for energy from giant wind turbines along the Atlantic coast and in the New York Bight, the question of how to best get the power to the shore has resulted in a call for public comment.
Anbaric Development Partners LLC has applied to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for a right-of-way to construct a New York and New Jersey Ocean Grid. According to the application, Ocean Grid is a proposed submarine system of cables approximately 185 nautical miles (213 statute miles) in length and including the construction of up to nine “offshore collector platforms,” or OCP. These platforms would distribute power generated from existing offshore wind leases to up to six onshore landings at locations from Long Island, N.Y., to Cardiff in Atlantic County, N.J.
The offshore transmission system would connect one or more high voltage subsea export cables handling 800 to 1,200 megawatts of energy to onshore points of interconnection.
Anbaric proposes to connect multiple offshore wind projects to transmission lines (like a very long underwater power strip) to accommodate phased wind development within BOEM’s Wind Energy Areas.
Along the Jersey Coast, OCP 7 is located 9.4 nautical miles (10.8 miles) from the shoreline inside the US Wind lease area in approximately 75 feet (23 meters) of water. OCP 8 is located 9.1 nautical miles (10.5 statute miles) from the shoreline inside of the Ørsted Energy Lease Area in approximately 62 feet (19 meters) of water. OCP 9 is located 11.0 nautical miles (12.7 miles) from the shoreline, south of the Ørsted Energy Lease Area in approximately 56 feet (17 meters) of water.
The platform locations off the New Jersey coast could be visible to people onshore. Anbaric promises to access and provide information to the BOEM regarding potential visual impacts.
On June 22, 2018, the BOEM approved Anbaric’s legal, technical and financial qualifications to acquire and hold a rights-of-way grant on the Outer Continental Shelf, but part of the process requires requesting comments from interested stakeholders.
According to Anbaric’s website, “Offshore wind is a nascent industry in the U.S., and now is the time to carefully plan and build the infrastructure that will support its long-term growth. The NY/NJ Ocean Grid will help New York and New Jersey meet their respective goals of developing 2,400 and 3,500 MW of offshore wind by 2030. Planned infrastructure offers advantages over radial transmission lines in terms of economies of scale, efficient use of interconnections, and reducing footprint and potential environmental impacts.”
The BOEM and the U.S. Department of Energy agreed transmission is a problem when considering integrating offshore wind power generation with the electric grid available onshore.
Anbaric proposes its transmission system will minimize environmental impacts by reducing the environmental footprint of transmission cables, but the rights-of-way would not preclude offshore wind developers from building their own export cables.
All subsea cables will be buried using jet plow embedment. Jet plow embedment simultaneously lays and buries the cable and ensures the placement of the cable at the target burial depth with minimum bottom disturbance.
Nearshore and onshore facilities that will be located outside of the Outer Continental Shelf include the sea-to-shore landfall locations, land cable routes, and interconnections to the existing substations. Depending on the subsea cable technology, an onshore converter station may also be required to transform the current from DC to AC before interconnection with the onshore electric grid, according to the Anbaric application.
Thirty-five comments were received by the BOEM for the Anbaric application for rights-of-way on the Outer Continental Shelf. The construction industry was overwhelmingly in favor of the proposal, while others favor a slowing down of the application until more environmental studies can be completed.
Clean Ocean Action, a coalition of over 115 conservation, fishing, surfing, business, civic and community organizations dedicated to the improvement of water-quality, has urged the BOEM to conduct public hearings in both New York and New Jersey on the project.
The Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council has stated the cable routes and offshore collector platform locations overlap with commercial or recreational fishing areas for managed species including squid, butterfish, summer flounder, scup, black sea bass, bluefish, spiny dogfish, surf clams and ocean quahogs. “The cables and offshore platforms referenced by Anbaric should not be placed in areas with sensitive fish habitats or important fishing grounds, including shipwrecks and artificial reefs … cables should be buried to a depth to allow bottom tending fishing gear such as trawls and dredges to continue to operate in the area.”
The New England Fishery Management Council has asked that when Anbaric or any other developer of an ocean energy transmission system seeks a construction permit, first a complete and thorough environmental impact statement of long-term impacts should be carried out.
The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance is concerned about impact to bottom-dwelling species from electromagnetic fields, noise, heat, and seabed and water column disturbances associated with cable laying. But it notes Anbaric has taken a proactive approach in considering fisheries concerns.
The BOEM states that the application for the rights-of-way may be premature until technical studies can be complete. “Consideration of a specific transmission line, at this early stage, could unnecessarily and inefficiently limit the future thoughtful expansion of an offshore wind transmission grid that may better align with state policy objectives and better serve future lease areas.”
Considerations must also be made for sand borrow areas used for beach replenishment, which is not part of the proposed application.
A joint statement from the New Jersey Bureau of Public Utilities and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection asks BOEM to complete the lease plans for wind in the New York Bight before a ROW grant. Additionally, six offshore lease holders including Ørsted and Ocean Wind oppose Anbaric’s ROW.
The BOEM has stated it will continue to consult with a state task force and partners regarding the proposed project.
A map of the area proposed and a copy of the application are available at boem.gov/Regional-Proposals/.
Additional comments and full transcriptions of comments can be found at regulations.gov, docket # BOEM-2018-0067.
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