The Department of Interior may have paused federal oil and natural gas leasing, but it is looking to deploy 30 GW of offshore wind capacity on nearly every U.S. coast by 2030.

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A competitive lease sale to kick things off is planned in the New York Bight, with other auctions eventually expected offshore the West Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM).

The Bight, sandwiched between the coast of Long Island and New Jersey, could see as many as eight areas auctioned for commercial wind energy development across 627,331 acres. Interior estimated the area could support more than 7 GW of offshore wind energy, enough to power 2.6 million homes. 

DOI Secretary Deb Haaland said the Biden administration “recognizes the urgency of this moment, and the development of renewable energy resources is an important piece of addressing this reality.” The proposed lease stipulations prioritize “creating and sustaining good paying union jobs as we build a clean energy economy.”

In late March, the Department of Energy announced a national goal to have 30 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030. The goal expanded upon President Biden’s executive order in January that called for a government-wide approach to tackle the climate crisis. 

The New York Bight auction also would build upon recent milestones to advance offshore wind development. 

In May, the 800 MW Vineyard Wind1 project offshore Massachusetts was approved to begin construction. The first large-scale project is to be sited about 12 nautical miles offshore Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.

Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) as of early June had held eight competitive lease sales and issued 17 active commercial offshore wind leases for the Atlantic, from Massachusetts to North Carolina.

Thriving Competition

According to BOEM, companies qualified to participate in the upcoming Bight sale include Avangrid Renewables LLC, East Wind LLC, EDF Renewables Development Inc., Equinor Wind US LLC, Horizon Wind Power LLC, North River Wind LLC, RWE Offshore Wind Holdings LLC, PNE USA Inc., US Mainstream Renewable Power Inc., US Wind Inc. and Invenergy Wind Offshore LLC.

For the New York Bight project, several innovative lease stipulations are being considered. One could “make every reasonable effort to enter into a project labor agreement covering the construction of any project proposed for the lease area.” It also may require a “stakeholder and ocean user engagement summary” to determine its progress. 

“The New York Bight is a prime example of how regional cooperation, partnerships, and stakeholder feedback can come together to identify areas suitable for offshore wind development,” BOEM Director Amanda Lefton said. 

Public comments on the New York Bight sale are being accepted by BOEM until Aug. 10, with a final sale notice expected soon after. 

On a related note, Equinor and BP plc in January partnered to develop 4.4 GW gross of U.S. offshore wind opportunities with four projects. The BOEM plans to begin the scoping process for an environmental impact statement this week for BP and Equinor’s 2,000 MW Empire Wind project, which would supply electricity to New York. 

“BOEM’s notice of intent for New York’s future Empire Wind offshore wind projects marks a key federal permitting milestone for the project, which will generate enough power for more than one million homes,” noted the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. “We appreciate our federal partners are acting swiftly to accelerate offshore wind development and look forward to unlocking the enormous economic benefits — including thousands of jobs and billions of dollars of private investment — that offshore wind will bring to New York.”

Windy Nation

Interior also is advancing offshore wind development off the coast of California, a step toward expanding options for the entire West Coast. In addition, opportunities are being assessed to advance projects in the GOM, long a breadbasket for oil and natural gas development.

A request for interest (RFI) concerning the GOM’s potential was issued in mid-June. The focus is on the same areas that oil and gas producers prioritize in their BOEM auctions, the Western and Central Planning Areas of the GOM offshore Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. The primary focus is offshore wind energy development, but BOEM also is seeking information on other renewable energy technologies for the GOM.

“The Gulf of Mexico has decades of offshore energy development expertise,” said BOEM’s Mike Celata, regional director of the GOM office in New Orleans. The RFI “represents the first step in harnessing that expertise and applying it to the renewable energy sector.”

More information about the BOEM’s offshore wind projects and other developments are available on the renewable energy program website.

Carolyn Davis contributed reporting.