Del. lease is first under new Interior planning regime

Source: Phil Taylor, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Obama administration today said it has reached an agreement to issue an offshore wind lease about a dozen miles from the Delaware coast, the second in the United States and the first under the Interior Department’s “smart from the start” program in the mid-Atlantic.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said the noncompetitive lease gives NRG Bluewater Wind Delaware LLC the exclusive right to set up meteorological towers and buoys and develop a construction and operating plan for a commercial wind farm.

“Delaware has remarkable offshore wind potential, and harnessing this clean, domestic energy resource will create jobs, increase our energy security and strengthen our nation’s economic competitiveness,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said in a statement.

The announcement was expected to occur much sooner, after Salazar at an offshore wind conference in Baltimore last fall said the agency was within weeks of issuing a noncompetitive lease off the coast of Delaware (E&E Daily, Oct. 12, 2011).

But NRG Energy Inc., which had sought the lease, in January said it was putting its 450-megawatt Bluewater Wind project on hold, citing difficulty financing the project and the pending expiration of the investment tax credit. It said, however, that it was moving forward with its lease.

“This lease is the result of many months of hard work and collaboration among BOEM, our federal partners, the Delaware Renewable Energy Task Force and other stakeholders,” said BOEM Director Tommy Beaudreau. “I congratulate NRG Bluewater Wind, and we look forward to their progress in standing up offshore wind energy generation under this lease.”

Beaudreau said today’s lease, which includes 96,430 acres, was designed to protect other ocean uses including major shipping lanes into and out of Delaware Bay, a proposed vessel anchorage ground and a munitions disposal area.

Interior is also planning competitive lease sales off the coasts of Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, though the first sale was recently bumped from 2012 to next year (E&ENews PM, Oct. 11).