- Three pre-designated Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) off the North Carolina coast have been advanced by the U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) toward the leasing process that would begin ocean wind development.
- N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Donald van der Haart informed BOEM early this year that wind project development within 24 nautical miles of the coast could negatively impact tourism in the region. Two of the tracts are significantly closer.
- BOEM’s environmental assessment, conducted according to the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), produced a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), which means building in the 307,590 acres of ocean tracts will likely cause no important environmental or socioeconomic harms.
BOEM’s October 7 meeting of the North Carolina Renewable Energy Task Force is the next step in the process. Following input from the Task Force, BOEM will publish a “Proposed Sale Notice” in the Federal Register, beginning a 60-day public comment period. The leasing process would begin after an evaluation of stakeholder input.
The fledgling U.S. offshore wind industry passed a significant landmark in July when Deepwater Wind installed the first of five steel foundations for its 30 MW Block Island Wind Project. It is the first steel in the water for the first commercial-scale U.S. ocean wind installation. The project, off the coast of Rhode Island's Block Island, will have five 6 MW turbines and its output is contracted for by National Grid. It is expected to be online before the end of 2016.
There were about 7 GW of offshore wind installed globally at the end of 2014, most in Europe, where another 6.6 GW were in construction and development, according to "Offshore Wind Market and Economic Analysis," a report from the Department of Energy and Navigant Research.