(OW) The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has announced three final wind energy areas (WEAs) offshore Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, which, if fully developed, could support between 4 GW and 8 GW of offshore wind capacity.
The three WEAs total approximately 356,550 acres. The first WEA (A-2) is 101,767 acres and is located 26 nautical miles (nm) from Delaware Bay. The second WEA (B-1) is 78,285 acres and about 23.5 nm offshore Ocean City, Maryland. The third WEA (C-1) is 176,506 acres and is located about 35 nm from the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, offshore Virginia.
The three final WEAs were developed following engagement and feedback from states, Tribes, local residents, ocean users, federal government partners, and other members of the public.
BOEM will publish its Notice of Intent to prepare an environmental assessment of potential impacts from offshore wind leasing in the WEAs on 1 August, which will initiate a 30-day public comment period.
Another public comment period would occur if BOEM decides to move forward with a lease sale in any of the WEAs.
As part of BOEM’s ongoing coordination with the Department of Defense (DoD) and NASA, an in-depth review of WEA B-1 will continue to determine if their activities could co-exist with wind energy development, said BOEM.
The results of the final in-depth assessment from DoD and NASA will be used to inform whether the abovementioned area should be included in a possible lease sale, which would be the next step in the wind energy process.
There would be another public comment period if BOEM decides to move forward with a proposed lease sale, and if area WEA B-1 is included in a proposed lease sale, any necessary mitigation would be identified to inform bidders in advance of a future sale, according to the press release.
In November, BOEM announced and requested public comment on eight draft WEAs on the US Outer Continental Shelf offshore North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware, covering approximately 1.7 million acres.
The draft WEAs represented a subset of the original 3.9 million acres that the Department of the Interior identified for public comment in April 2022.
The US offshore wind target, set by the Biden-Harris administration in March 2021, is estimated to support around 77,000 direct and indirect jobs and trigger more than USD 12 billion (around EUR 10.2 billion) per year in capital investment in projects on both US coasts.
The 2030 target would also unlock a pathway to deploy 110 GW or more of offshore wind capacity by 2050, which would support a total of 135,000 jobs by that time.
As part of this ambition, BOEM has put the permitting process on a fast track and the country recently announced a new offshore wind lease sale auction.
A couple of weeks ago, US President Joe Biden revealed that the first-ever Gulf of Mexico lease sale will take place on 29 August.
The offshore wind energy areas have the potential to power almost 1.3 million homes with clean energy.