The federal government wants to know the potential impact of offshore wind in two newly identified portions of the Atlantic Ocean off the Outer Banks.
In a Federal Register notice published Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is seeking information from wind energy developers and ocean users like fishermen that the agency hopes to use to winnow down six potential wind lease areas between Delaware and North Carolina.
Those include a 691-square-mile area wrapping around the northeastern border of an already leased area off of Kitty Hawk, as well as a 1,193-square-mile area that begins about 44 nautical miles off of the Outer Banks coast. Any eventual leases would join the already leased Kitty Hawk area and an area off of the Brunswick County coast that will be leased in May in generating wind energy off of the North Carolina coast.
Comments will be used to “significantly narrow” the areas to be leased, Tracey Moriarty, a BOEM spokeswoman, wrote in a statement.
BOEM identifies “call areas,” like the two new areas off of the Outer Banks, that it believes have potential for wind energy. Then it asks for feedback from developers and other parties who use the ocean before identifying a wind energy area and proposing a lease sale.
Complicating matters off the North Carolina coast is a 10-year moratorium on offshore energy leases set to take effect July 1.
“While we are gathering information on the entire Central Atlantic Call Area, we would not propose leasing any areas while they are subject to any moratorium,” Moriarty said.
She said sites identified as “wind energy areas” off of North Carolina might be available for leasing later than areas identified off of Maryland, Virginia and Delaware.
BOEM is trying to assess commercial interest in the areas, said Katharine Kollins, president of the Southeastern Wind Coalition. With the moratorium in place, Kollins added, the agency can work through most of the permitting process.
“They can move from a call area to a wind energy area as part of that permitting process, they just can’t lease the areas,” Kollins said.
The Biden administration has set a target of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy in the United States by 2030, while Gov. Roy Cooper has set targets for North Carolina of 2.8 gigawatts of offshore wind generation by 2030 and 8 gigawatts by 2040.
Speaking at the International Offshore Wind Partnering Forum this week,
Cooper said it is important to create “a pipeline” of offshore wind projects off of the North Carolina coast, like BOEM’s announcement could accomplish.
“There’s going to be more to come,” Cooper said. “We’re very excited about that.”
Adding new lease areas off of North Carolina comes with some uncertainty, Kollins said, particularly because the state doesn’t have a mandate to develop wind power like neighboring Virginia. Cooper’s executive orders are suggestions, while Virginia law mandates 5.2 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2034.
“Clearly there’s a lot of demand for new wind energy areas from developers so continuing to identify is absolutely a way to start meeting some of that demand,” Kollins said.
Those interested can visit www.regulations.gov and enter BOEM-2022-0023 into the search box. That will lead to supporting materials and to instructions to submit comments.
This story was produced with financial support from 1Earth Fund, in partnership with Journalism Funding Partners, as part of an independent journalism fellowship program. The N&O maintains full editorial control of the work.
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