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White House Plans Six Offshore Wind Lease Auctions for New York Bight

US offshore wind lease auction scheduled
Next New York Bight auction will be the most leases offered at one time (BOEM)

Published Jan 12, 2022 2:46 PM by The Maritime Executive

Seeking to establish a rapid pace of development for offshore wind power generation, the U.S. Department of Interior announced plans to conduct an auction for six leases in the New York Bight, which will be the most leases offered in a single auction. The auction, which is scheduled for February 23, will be the first conducted by the Biden administration and follows other steps announced in recent days to encourage the growth of the offshore wind sector.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will be conducting the bidding for six lease areas located outside New York harbor and to the south along the New Jersey coast for more than 480,000 acres. They estimate that this sale could result in 5.6 to 7 gigawatts of offshore wind energy, enough to power nearly 2 million homes. As offshore wind technology continues to advance, these areas may have the potential to produce even more clean energy says BOEM in the offering documents.

“Offshore wind opportunities like the New York Bight present a once-in-a-generation opportunity to fight climate change and create good-paying, union jobs in the United States,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “We are at an inflection point for domestic offshore wind energy development.”

The federal government’s goal to install 30 GW of offshore wind by 2030 is complemented by state offshore wind policies and actions throughout the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. Collectively, New York and New Jersey have set the nation’s largest regional offshore wind target of installing over 16 GW of offshore wind by 2035. Currently, BOEM has 18 commercial offshore wind leases on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), and while the new auction provides for a large area it has been significantly scaled back. 

BOEM initially asked for information and nominations of commercial interest for 1,735,154 acres in the Bight. Based on the bureau’s review of scientific data, and extensive input from the commercial fishing industry, tribes, partnering agencies, key stakeholders, and the public, BOEM, however, reduced the acreage by 72 percent to avoid conflicts with ocean users and minimize environmental impacts. The bureau says that its efforts are intended to promote offshore wind development in a way that coexists with other ocean uses and protects the ocean environment, while also facilitating our nation’s energy future.

The New York Bight offshore wind auction will include several lease stipulations designed BOEM says to promote the development of a robust domestic U.S. supply chain for offshore wind while enhancing engagement with other ocean users and underserved communities. The stipulations are designed to advance flexibility in transmission planning and make use of project labor agreements throughout the construction of offshore wind projects. There will be incentives to source major components domestically – such as blades, turbines, and foundations – and to enter into project labor agreements to ensure projects are union-built, while also requiring lessees to identify tribes, underserved communities, and other ocean users who could be affected by offshore wind development. The Interior Department says it will hold companies accountable for improving their engagement, communication, and transparency with these communities.

The announcement of the new auction received positive feedback from many organizations, including American Clean Power Association CEO Heather Zichal who said, “ACP applauds the announcement from the Biden-Harris Administration to increase the deployment of clean energy projects and create more jobs across the country with a focus on offshore wind, expanding renewables on public lands and upgrades to the electrical transmission system.” 

BOEM this week also took steps to continue the development of offshore wind projects in other parts of the U.S. They announced that the bureau is preparing a draft environmental assessment to consider the impacts of potential offshore wind leasing in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. They also release its draft Environmental Assessment on the potential impacts from future commercial leasing and related sites in the Humboldt Wind Energy Area. Humboldt is approximately 206 square miles that, if developed, could bring up to 1.6 GW of energy, in an area off the coast of Northern California.  

The recently passed infrastructure legislation also includes significant investments to support the development of the wind energy sector. Among the infrastructure efforts, the Department of Transportation announced investments for the Port of Albany and the Portsmouth Marine Terminal to strengthen the U.S. offshore wind supply chain.