U.S. Interior Dept. Takes First Step to Offshore Wind Leasing Off California Coast

Opened in 2016, Deepwater Wind LLC’s Block Island Wind Farm is the first and only offshore wind farm in the United States. Photo: Deepwater Wind LLC

The U.S. Department of Interior is taking its first step towards offering federal waters off the coast of California up for lease to offshore wind developers that could result in the first offshore wind farm off the U.S. West Coast.

The Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management last Thursday announced it will publish a Call for Information and Nominations to identify companies interested in commercial wind energy leases within three proposed ‘Call Areas’ off central and northern California, marking the first step towards offering a location for wind leasing.

The three areas include 85 whole Outer Continental Shelf blocks and 573 partial blocks, together comprising approximately 1,073 square miles. Two of the areas are located off Morro Bay on the Central Coast, while the third is located in Northern California off Eureka.

The call for information and nominations off California was one of three major developments related to U.S. offshore wind energy announced by U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke last week at the American Wind Energy Association’s Offshore Wind Conference.

The other two developments included setting a date for the much-anticipated wind auction in federal waters off the coast of Massachusetts as well the environmental review of a proposed wind project offshore Rhode Island.

“I’m very bullish on offshore wind, and harnessing this renewable resource is a big part of the Trump Administration’s made in America energy strategy,” said Secretary Zinke. “We are always looking at new ways to increase American innovation and productivity to provide abundant and affordable energy for our homes and manufacturers. I think this is a win for America. Working together with states, fishermen and the energy industry, we are making offshore wind a reality, and these three historic announcements are proof.”

In Massachusetts, the BOEM has set a date of December 13, 2018, to hold the next offshore wind auction, which will offer nearly 390,000 acres offshore Massachusetts available for offshore wind development to the highest bidder. A total of nineteen companies have qualified to participate in the auction.

“The Massachusetts sale has a lot of potential for both energy and economic activity,” Zinke said. “If fully developed, the wind auction could support approximately 4.1 gigawatts of power to supply nearly 1.5 million homes. This is just one example of the importance of fostering wind energy as a new American industry.”

In Rhode Island, the BOEM will publish a Notice of Intent to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement for the Construction and Operations Plan for the South Fork Wind Project offshore Rhode Island. 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 on the east end of Long Island.

Through BOEM, the Department of the Interior manages 12 active commercial wind energy leases off the Atlantic covering nearly 1.4 million acres.

While additional offshore wind farms are planned, the only commercial offshore wind farm in the United States currently is the 30MW Block Island Wind Farm which opened in late 2016.

The U.S. Interior Dept. says the recent developments in offshoe wind are part of the the Trump Administration’s all-of-the-above energy policy.