US government announces plans for over 4 GW offshore wind auctions

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US government announces plans for over 4 GW offshore wind auctions

The Secretary of the Interior of the USA has announced three major developments in the country's offshore wind energy sector.

Firstly, the federal government's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will hold an offshore wind auction covering nearly 390,000 acres off the coast of Massachusetts, located in the north-east, on 13 December 2018. The area is projected to support 4.1 GW of power, which would supply nearly 1.5 million homes. Nineteen companies have qualified to participate.

BOEM is also in the process of preparing the first offshore wind auction of the west coast of the USA. The Bureau will publish a Call for Information and Nominations to identify companies interested in commercial wind energy leases within three proposed areas off central and northern California. This is the first step towards offering a location for wind leasing. 

The three Call Areas include 85 whole Outer Continental Shelf blocks and 573 partial blocks and together comprise approximately 1,073 square miles (687,823 acres).  The Call will be published in the Federal Register on 19 October and will have a 100-day public comment period closing on 27 January 2019.

The third development announced by the Secretary concerns an offshore wind project already in development - the South Fork project, proposed by Deepwater Wind to be located off the coast of Rhode Island, in the north-east. BOEM will publish a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Construction and Operations Plan for the project.

If approved, the plan would allow construction and operation of up to 15 turbines that connect via a transmission cable to a grid in East Hampton, New York. The notice will be published in the Federal Register on 19 October and will have a 30-day public comment period closing on 19 November.

These announcements are significant. There is currently only one operational offshore wind farm in the USA, generating a modest 30 MW. Comparing this to the more than 4,000 wind turbines that have been installed offshore in Europe, it is clear that considerable steps need to be taken for the USA to compete in the global offshore wind sector.

Progress is already underway. Requests for Proposals by north-eastern state governments have led to the procurement of almost 1.5 GW offshore wind capacity this year (see here and here), and attracted global leaders in the sector such as Ørsted and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners. Just last month, the Board of Public Utilities in the state of New Jersey approved opening a solicitation for 1,100 MW of offshore wind capacity - the largest single-state solicitation of offshore wind in the USA to date.

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