As part of President Obama's Climate Action Plan to create American jobs, develop domestic clean energy sources and cut carbon pollution, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced today that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has defined three Wind Energy Areas offshore North Carolina, which total approximately 307,590 acres, for potential commercial wind energy development.
"Today represents an important step forward for North Carolina in harnessing the vast wind energy potential along the Atlantic Coast to power homes and strengthen our clean energy economy," said Secretary Jewell. "This milestone is the result of collaboration with stakeholders and partners at all levels to identify areas off the coast with great resource potential while also minimizing conflicts with other important uses. We look forward to working with the state of North Carolina, industry and a broad range of stakeholders as this exciting process continues to further commercial wind development in the United States."
Today's announcement builds on BOEM's recent activities to grow offshore renewable energy through the leasing of Wind Energy Areas. BOEM has awarded five commercial wind energy leases off the Atlantic coast: two non-competitive leases (for the proposed Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound and an area off Delaware) and three competitive leases (two offshore Massachusetts-Rhode Island and another offshore Virginia). The competitive lease sales generated more than $5 million in high bids for more than 277,500 acres in federal waters. BOEM will hold a competitive auction for an area offshore Maryland on Aug.19, 2014, and expects to hold additional competitive auctions for wind energy areas offshore Massachusetts and New Jersey in the coming year.
The Wind Energy Areas announced today include the Kitty Hawk Wind Energy Areas (about 122,405 acres), the Wilmington West Wind Energy Areas (about 51,595 acres) and the Wilmington East Wind Energy Areas (about 133,590 acres).
"Today is a significant step forward in facilitating the responsible development of renewable, clean energy offshore the United States and a true testament to the dedication of the North Carolina Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force to ensure that we are moving forward in a safe and smart manner," said BOEM Acting Director Walter Cruickshank.
Consistent with the Interior Department's "Smart from the Start" strategy for offshore wind, each of the three Wind Energy Areas has been designed to make available areas that are attractive for commercial offshore wind development, while also protecting important viewsheds, sensitive habitats and resources and minimizing space use conflicts with activities such as military operations, shipping and fishing.
For example, BOEM worked closely with the United States Coast Guard to ensure that development in the identified areas would not pose significant risks to navigational safety. BOEM also worked with the National Park Service to address concerns regarding potential visual impacts to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore and the Bodie Island Lighthouse. As a result, BOEM refined the areas originally considered for commercial wind energy development during the process of defining the Wind Energy Areas.
Before any leases are offered for competitive auction, BOEM will complete an Environmental Assessment to determine potential impacts associated with issuing leases and approving site assessment activities in the Wind Energy Areas, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act.
BOEM is only considering the issuance of leases and approval of site assessment plans at this time. If leases are issued, any proposal for a commercial wind energy facility will require a construction and operations plan and a site-specific environmental analysis.
In December 2012, BOEM published in the Federal Register a Call for Information and Nominations and a Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Assessment.
BOEM considered all comments received in response to the Call and Notice of Intent and worked closely with Federal, State and local government agencies and stakeholders to avoid existing high use and sensitive resource areas while identifying areas suitable for offshore wind development.
For more information about this decision, refer to BOEM's Announcement of Area Identification - Commercial Wind Energy Leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf Offshore North Carolina.