White House announces new leases, collaborative efforts

Source: Katherine Ling, E&E reporter • Posted: Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The White House today announced new offshore wind energy leases and increased federal and international collaboration in an effort to meet President Obama’s commitment to obtain 20 percent of non-hydropower renewable energy generation by 2030.

The announcements kicked off the first-ever offshore wind summit hosted by the White House, which included representatives from federal and state offices and stakeholders.

The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will exchange lessons learned, best practices and scientific information with offshore wind regulators from the United Kingdom, Denmark and Germany as part of an effort to create an International Offshore Wind Regulators Forum, the White House said.

The administration will also establish a federal interagency working group on offshore wind for “effective coordination” and “to ensure the responsible development of this technology.” The White House Council on Environmental Quality will co-chair the working group, which will include BOEM, the National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Department of Energy, the Department of Defense, the Department of Transportation, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. EPA, the Coast Guard and the Army Corps of Engineers.

DOE and DOI are also working on an updated national offshore wind road map to be released next year, “given the market and technological changes” since the first plan was released in 2011. It will build on the “Wind Vision” report DOE released earlier this year (Greenwire, March 12). DOE is also funding a Northeastern offshore wind road map with New York, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

“Offshore wind will play an integral role in our future energy portfolio,” CEQ said in a statement on the announcements.

The summit and new initiatives come about a week after BOEM announced that it had found no significant environmental or socio-economic impact to developing offshore wind in almost 308,000 acres off the coast of North Carolina and that it will offer two lease areas off the shore of New Jersey that could support enough generation to power 1.2 million homes, according to the White House. The New Jersey auction will take place Nov. 9 (E&ENews PM, Sept. 23).

Earlier this summer, Deepwater Wind began construction on the nation’s first offshore wind project off the coast of Rhode Island. The $225 million, 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm will have five turbines and is scheduled to begin producing energy next year (Greenwire, July 28).

The United States, however, is still lagging behind Europe, which installed an additional 2.3 gigawatts of offshore wind power in the first half of the year — more than any other previous six-month period, according to the European Wind Energy Association. European countries currently have a total offshore wind capacity of 10 GW, with an additional 5 GW planned for 2017.