N.C. offshore lease sale rakes in $9M

Source: Daniel Cusick, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, March 20, 2017

A U.S. subsidiary of the Spanish energy conglomerate Iberdrola SA paid more than $9 million for the rights to develop offshore wind farms on North Carolina’s outer continental shelf.

Portland, Ore.-based Avangrid Renewables LLC won the lease in a 17-round competitive auction yesterday administered by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

The provisional winning bid of $9.06 million, or just over $74 per acre, will allow Avangrid to begin scoping the 122,400-acre wind energy area roughly 24 nautical miles from Kitty Hawk with the possibility of building wind turbines in the coming years.

“We are very excited about this opportunity for Avangrid Renewables to play a leading role in the growing U.S. offshore wind industry, a reliable source of clean energy that has significant job-creation potential in North Carolina and the United States,” CEO James Torgerson said in a statement.

The company is expected to begin developing a site assessment plan for the area, including meteorological data collection, wildlife surveys and seafloor mapping. Any plan to further develop the site would require additional environmental review, including public hearings and federal permitting, officials said.

Energy Department scientists estimate the Kitty Hawk wind energy area has a wind-speed capacity of roughly 3 megawatts per square kilometer, sufficient to support roughly 1,500 megawatts of commercial wind turbines.

If built, the Kitty Hawk project would be the second undertaken by Avangrid in the Tar Heel State. The company recently began commercial operation of North Carolina’s first commercial wind power plant — the $400 million Amazon Wind Farm U.S. East near Elizabeth City.

Torgerson cited the company’s leading position in North Carolina, as well as the extensive experience of its parent, Iberdrola, in developing offshore wind farms in Europe as factors that made the company “well-positioned to secure this bid.”

The Kitty Hawk offshore wind lease auction was the seventh conducted by BOEM since the program’s inception in 2009, and it appears to be its second most lucrative. Last December, offshore energy giant Statoil ASA of Norway agreed to pay a record $42.5 million for the rights to develop 79,000 acres of sea surface off New York.

Statoil, through its U.S. wind energy subsidiary, was among the four companies vying for the North Carolina offshore lease, along with Wind Future LLC and WPD Offshore Alpha LLC. Five of the nine companies that initially qualified to participate in the BOEM auction dropped out before the opening round of bidding.

BOEM said it has been working with the North Carolina Renewable Energy Task Force since 2010 to identify an area of sufficient size for offshore wind development, while avoiding ecologically sensitive areas and multiple-use conflicts.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the success of the North Carolina lease sale “reflects the continued interest of coastal communities to develop their offshore energy resources,” adding that “offshore wind is one tool in the all-of-the-above energy toolbox that will help power America with domestic energy, securing energy independence and bolstering the economy.”