Interior eyeing Long Island waters for next competitive lease

Source: Phil Taylor, E&E reporter • Posted: Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The Interior Department this morning announced it will explore whether 127 square miles of federal waters south of New York’s Long Island are suitable for commercial wind leasing, the latest step in the Obama administration’s bold offshore wind agenda.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said it will complete a National Environmental Policy Act review to determine whether wind development about 10 miles south of Long Beach, N.Y., would conflict with a potential offshore liquefied natural gas facility or commercial or recreational fishing in the area.

The NEPA review and an associated call for industry nominations are important steps in BOEM’s continued pursuit of offshore wind development in the Atlantic Ocean.BOEM has already issued five commercial wind leases off Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Delaware and Virginia and is planning lease sales in the coming year off Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey. No wind farms have been built, though some are nearing construction.

BOEM will complete its environmental review, consult with a New York renewable energy task force and consider competing uses of the waters before deciding whether to propose a lease sale.

A competitive lease would allow industry players to compete for the exclusive right to survey the water, set up meteorological towers and submit a wind farm construction plan.

The triangle-shaped call area has been sought as far back as September 2011 by the New York Power Authority, which had proposed building nearly 200 turbines to support a 700-megawatt wind farm.

But after BOEM issued a request for interest in early 2013, it learned that Fishermen’s Energy LLC and Energy Management Inc. were also eyeing the area, which requires the agency to hold a competitive lease sale.

A chief concern is whether a commercial wind facility would be compatible with Liberty Natural Gas LLC’sproposal to build and operate the Port Ambrose offshore liquefied natural gas facility, which would be located within the call area roughly 19 miles off Jones Beach. The project is under review by the Coast Guard.

“Although Liberty noted their belief that the LNG facility would be compatible with a large wind energy facility in their application, BOEM highlighted concerns about navigational challenges resulting from large LNG vessels operating within close proximity to offshore wind turbines,” BOEM said in its call to industry.

Liberty argues that the terminal would bring jobs to the region and help it convert from heating oil to natural gas, but the $300 million project faces local opposition from anti-fracking activists who fear it could one day export gas produced in the Marcellus Shale (EnergyWire, July 11, 2013).

The public has 45 days to comment on BOEM’s call for interest and the scope of the NEPA review.