Offshore Lease Agreement Next Step In Wind Farm Process

Offshore Lease Agreement Next Step In Wind Farm Process
A map of the proposed offshore wind farm area is pictured. Submitted Image

OCEAN CITY — A future offshore wind energy farm off Ocean City inched closer to becoming a reality last week when the U.S. Department of the Interior announced the proposed notice of sale for roughly 80,000 acres of area in the Atlantic.
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Tommy Beaudreau and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley last Tuesday announced the proposed notice of sale for the Maryland Wind Energy Area (WEA), a vast region of around 80,000 acres off the coast of Ocean City. The proposed lease of the Wind Energy Area off the coast of the resort is the next major step in the long process to develop an offshore wind energy farm off the coast of the resort.
Earlier this year, the General Assembly approved O’Malley’s Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 after two unsuccessful attempts in prior years. The proposal calls for a vast wind energy farm of as many as 40 turbines off the coast of Ocean City in the designated Wind Energy Area. The proposed WEA ranges from as close as 10 miles off the coast of the resort to as far as 30 miles.
BOEM officials identified the WEA in consultation with members of the Maryland Intergovernmental Task Force, which included federal, state and local government partners. In the months since the passage of the legislation, extensive research has been conducted in the WEA to determine potential environmental and economic impacts as well as possible impacts on maritime traffic and commercial and recreational fishing.
With that work essentially complete, the next step in the process is to offer Maryland’s WEA for lease to private sector entities interested in developing the future offshore wind farm off the coast of the resort. The Department of the Interior’s announcement this week of the proposed notice of sale for the roughly 80,000-acre area of open ocean sets that in motion.
“Maryland is a leader when it comes to building a sustainable energy future, including the vast wind energy potential along the Atlantic,” said Jewell on Tuesday. “As we work toward a competitive lease sale in Maryland, I want to thank Governor O’Malley and the task force, who have been instrumental in marking sure that today’s milestone reflects the input and commitment of the industry, the local community and a broad range of stakeholders to advancing offshore wind energy development.”
Based on analysis prepared for BOEM by the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the Maryland WEA could support between 850 and 1,450 megawatts of commercial wind generation. Ostensibly, the future wind energy farm off the coast of Ocean City could produce enough electricity to power approximately 300,000 homes, according to the report.
“Today’s announcement brings our state one step closer to harnessing the tremendous potential of offshore wind energy off our shores and realizing Maryland’s clean energy future,” said O’Malley. “The development of offshore wind will drive economic development in Maryland, create high quality, family-supporting jobs for Maryland residents and play a major role in reducing emissions and protecting the environment.”
BOEM proposed to auction the wind energy area as two leases, a North Lease Area and a South Lease Area. The North Lease Area consists of 32,737 acres and the South Lease Area consists of 46,970 acres. The sale, which will be held in the form of an online auction, is expected sometime early next year, although no firm timetable for the competitive lease has been announced.
“The wind energy potential offshore Maryland is significant,” said Beaudreau. “The key to offshore development is substantial stakeholder engagement to identify and address concerns early in the process. We have accomplished this through the task force and we will continue to work very closely with stakeholders, including the Coast Guard, maritime industry and others as the project plans are developed and reviewed.”
This week’s announcement of the proposed notice for sale of the wind energy area off the coast of Maryland continues a recent pattern of similar actions up and down the east coast. In September, the Department of the Interior successfully auctioned nearly 113,000 acres off the coast of Virginia for the development of a wind energy farm and the Virginia Electric and Power Company won the lease with a high bid of $1.6 million. Earlier this summer, the department held its first successful offshore wind lease sale of an area of nearly 165,000 acres off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts won by Deepwater Wind New England with a high bid of $3.8 million.
The future wind farm would connect to a larger main transmission line offshore that would come ashore at some point along the Maryland coast and connect to the transmission system on the mainland for distribution across the grid. However, no firm plans have been announced for the future connection to the mainland, like somewhere in or around Ocean City.