Obama Administration Initiates Leasing Process for Commercial Wind Development Offshore Virginia

02-02-2012 WASHINGTON

Echoing President Obama’s State of the Union call for an “all of the above” energy strategy, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, together with the Commonwealth of Virginia, announced today that it is moving forward with the next step in wind energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore of Virginia under the “Smart from the Start” initiative to facilitate efficient and environmentally responsible renewable energy development.     

The bureau is publishing a Call for Information and Nominations to identify industry interest in locations within the Virginia Wind Energy Area for commercial wind energy leases. BOEM is also seeking public comment about site conditions, resources and other existing uses of the identified area that would be relevant to BOEM’s potential leasing and development authorization process.      

“We are working closely with the commonwealth of Virginia to facilitate the commercial leasing process for renewable energy in federal waters off Virginia’s coast and are building on the steps that the Commonwealth has taken to encourage offshore wind development,” said BOEM Director Tommy P. Beaudreau. “This, along with the completion of BOEM’s environmental assessment of leasing in the mid-Atlantic area, are significant milestones in identifying and refining priority areas for potential offshore commercial wind energy development.”   

“The Commonwealth is excited about this important step forward. It is a critical step toward making the valuable wind resource off of Virginia’s coast available for development. We have been working hard with stakeholders and the BOEM since 2009, when two private developers submitted unsolicited bids for leases off of our coast. We are pleased to reach this milestone today,” said Maureen Riley Matsen, Deputy Secretary of Natural Resources and Senior Advisor on Energy to Governor Bob McDonnell.    

The location under consideration in today’s announcement — or Call Area — was identified through consultation with BOEM’s intergovernmental Virginia Renewable Energy Task Force, which includes federal, state, local and tribal government representatives. The Call Area is intended to balance the adequate protection of ecologically sensitive areas and minimize space use conflicts while maximizing the area available for commercial offshore wind development.     

The Call Area contains 19 whole OCS blocks and 13 sub-blocks offshore Virginia. The western edge of the Call Area is approximately 23.5 nautical miles from the Virginia Beach coastline and extends to an eastern edge that is approximately 36.5 nautical miles from the same location. The longest north/south portion is approximately 10.5 nautical miles and the longest portion of the east/west portion is approximately 13 nautical miles. The entire area is approximately 112,799 acres. A map of the Call Area can be found at: http://www.boem.gov/Renewable-Energy-Program/State-Activities/Virginia.aspx.    

BOEM will use industry responses to this Call to gauge specific interest in the commercial development of wind resources in the Virginia Wind Energy Area. Depending on the responses received, the bureau may proceed with the competitive or noncompetitive leasing process. Both leasing processes would include additional opportunities for public input and thorough environmental review.      

BOEM recently completed the Commercial Wind Lease Issuance and Site Assessment Activities on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf Offshore New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia - Environmental Assessment and determined that there would be no significant impacts associated with issuing leases in the Wind Energy Areas offshore New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. The Call Area for Virginia is the preferred alternative considered in the Environmental Assessment as described in Alternative E, which excludes blocks that were identified by the Virginia Port Authority, American Waterways Operators and the United States Coast Guard as posing a potential risk to navigational safety. The Environmental Assessment is available at: http://www.boem.gov/Renewable-Energy-Program/Smart-from-the-Start/Index.aspx.     

The public is encouraged to provide any additional information about site conditions, resources and multiple uses in the Call Area that may assist BOEM in identifying any potential concerns associated with the area. Proposed offshore wind projects will receive comprehensive, site-specific analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act.    

The notice is available for today through the Federal Register at:  http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/public-inspection/index.html. Submissions of interest and public comments must be submitted within 45 days of publication in the Federal Register in one of the following ways:    

  1. Electronically:  http://www.boem.gov/About-BOEM/Public-Engagement/Public-Engagement-Opportunities.aspx  
  2. Click on the “Open Comment Documents” link and follow the instructions to submit public comments and to view supporting and related materials. 
  3. By mail: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Office of Renewable Energy Programs, 381 Elden Street, HM 1328, Herndon, VA 20170.