The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has identified approximately 1.7 million acres offshore the U.S. central Atlantic coast for possible offshore wind development.
The agency this week has announced eight draft Wind Energy Areas covering waters offshore North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware as part of a comprehensive process to identify the potential locations that appear most suitable for renewable energy. The areas’ closest points range from approximately 19 to 77 nautical miles offshore.
The draft areas are now open for public review and comment.
“As BOEM moves forward to identify wind energy areas in the central Atlantic, we continue to prioritize a robust and transparent process, including early engagement with Tribal governments, state and federal agencies and ocean users,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton. “We want to gather as much information and traditional knowledge as possible to help us identify Wind Energy Areas — the offshore areas that are most suitable for commercial wind energy activities while having the fewest apparent environmental and user conflicts.”
The 1.7 million acres is less than the original 3.9 million acres that the Department of the Interior initially announced for public comment in April 2022. The area of the final WEAs may be modified even further to incorporate feedback received during a 30-day public comment period that kicked off yesterday. BOEM is hoping to receive feedback on any potential conflicts with the draft areas, including with a potential U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) fairway for transiting vessels, commercial fishing, a NASA danger zone, and marine habitat areas.
BOEM says it intends to further explore these areas with the Department of Defense, USCG, NASA, and other ocean users, such as the fishing industry, to collect additional information that should be considered before finalizing the WEAs.
The draft WEAs are the latest development in the Biden Administration’s push to install 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy capacity by 2030.
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