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43 Companies to Compete For Five California Offshore Wind Leases

43 Companies to Compete For Five California Offshore Wind Leases
43 Companies to Compete For Five California Offshore Wind Leases

On Tuesday, the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will public sale 5 offshore wind growth leases alongside the California coast — the primary such lease sale on the West Coast of the United States. Two of the websites are off the coast of Humboldt, California, whereas the opposite three are close to Morro Bay. Collectively, the 5 lease areas embody over 500 sq. miles of ocean—an space bigger than the town of Los Angeles.

Forty-three firms are competing for these 5 leases, together with BP US Offshore Wind Energy LLC, a subsidiary of BP, and Shell New Energies US LLC, a subsidiary of Shell. However, successful considered one of these leases won’t allow firms to bounce straight into constructing offshore wind farms alongside the California coast. Instead, successful a lease merely marks the start of a sequence of regulatory hurdles that any firm should undergo earlier than being given the inexperienced gentle to construct the services — a course of that East Coast tenants and businesses have already begun.

Many leases on the east coast, few offshore wind farms

The first offshore wind leases have been auctioned by BOEM in 2012. Since then, 30 offshore wind leases (together with 27 industrial leases) have been awarded for the east coast. However, solely two leased lands at present function offshore wind farms: Sea2Shore: The Renewable Link Project in Rhode Island and the Offshore Wind Pilot Project in Virginia.

Rhode Island’s Sea2Shore Project

The Sea2Shore mission enabled Block Island Wind Farm, situated in state waters, to lay interconnectors in state-regulated waters to join the wind farm to mainland Rhode Island. Using transmission traces authorized by the Sea2Shore mission, the Block Island wind farm started supplying energy to the Rhode Island grid in December 2016, making it the United States’ first offshore wind farm.

The Coastal Virginia offshore wind mission

Unlike Rhode Island’s Block Island Wind Farm, whose main infrastructure was constructed in areas regulated by the state of Rhode Island, the Virginia offshore wind pilot represents the primary US offshore wind mission to be constructed in federal waters. The Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project, carried out by (*43*) premier utility Dominion Energy together with the State of Virginia, has enabled Dominion to assemble two offshore wind generators 27 miles off the Virginia coast for analysis functions. The wind generators of the pilot mission began rotating in May 2020. Today, the 2 wind generators constructed by the mission are the one two US wind generators situated in federal waters.

Lessons discovered from the pilot mission will feed into the design of Dominion’s Coastal Virginia offshore wind mission, which goals to construct 176 wind generators which can be anticipated to generate sufficient power to energy greater than 600,000 houses. However, almost 10 years after Dominion secured an offshore wind lease for the Coastal Virginia offshore wind mission, the mission stays undeveloped and public criticism leaves the way forward for the mission unsure.

Under building: The South Fork Wind Farm and Vineyard Wind

Two different offshore wind tasks are at present underneath building on the east coast: the South Fork Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island and Vineyard Wind 1 off the coast of Massachusetts. The tasks obtained federal leases in 2013 and 2015, respectively, and have since obtained all federal permits required for building to start.

By the time everybody is anticipated to go browsing, it will likely be round a decade since their leases have been awarded.

However, neither the South Fork wind farm nor the Vineyward Wind 1 are clear.

In explicit, the Vineyard Wind 1 mission in Massachusetts has confronted numerous authorized challenges, together with a current lawsuit in opposition to the mission by the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, or RODA, a bunch representing the industrial fishing business. As a part of the submitting, RODA argues that varied federal businesses, together with the BOEM, the US Army Corps of Engineers and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), have granted permits for the mission with out finishing an evaluation of the mission’s potential to develop into impartial impacting the susceptible North Atlantic Right Whale (considerations that the Maine lobster fishery not too long ago misplaced its coveted Sustainable Seafood Certification from the Marine Stewardship Council).

RODA additionally alleges that federal businesses failed to adequately consider different non-water dependent tasks (ie, onshore wind farms) and that the Vineyard Wind 1 mission would outcome within the unlawful exclusion of economic fishermen from the realm.

An identical lawsuit was filed in February 2022 by Allco Renewable Energy Ltd, a photo voltaic power firm, in opposition to the South Fork Wind and Vineyard Wind 1 tasks. In its lawsuit, the corporate argues, amongst different issues, that the mission may endanger endangered species and spill oil into the ocean ought to the generators tip over in hurricane-level wind occasions, and that the mission would outcome within the “decimation of the commercial fishing industry”.

Since submitting, Allco’s complaints in opposition to the 2 tasks have been break up into two separate circumstances. In addition, numerous Allco’s lawsuits have been dismissed as a result of Allco failed to notify federal authorities in a well timed method prior to submitting its lawsuit. Allco is anticipated to re-file the dismissed claims.

BOEM’s first California offshore wind leases

Despite the numerous unresolved authorized disputes plaguing offshore wind development on the East Coast, BOEM continues to consider new potential offshore wind websites and public sale industrial leases. Earlier this 12 months, BOEM awarded eight leases for areas off the coast of New York and North Carolina. Following Tuesday’s scheduled lease public sale, the full variety of industrial offshore wind leases awarded by BOEM will rise to 31 leases. Combined, the 15 leases issued this 12 months signify an almost 70% improve in offshore leases in 2022 alone.

The fast development in federal offshore wind leases has been enabled largely by the Biden administration, which set a 2021 purpose of producing 30 gigawatts of energy from offshore wind by 2030. In September 2022, the Biden administration expanded that purpose by 2035 to embody a further 15 gigawatts of energy from floating offshore wind energy — the kind of offshore wind expertise deployed off the California coast.

But even with the assist of the Biden administration, offshore wind farms are possible to be constructed within the West for a minimum of just a few extra years.

Without delays related to litigation or public criticism, the businesses awarded the 5 new California offshore wind leases should meet many regulatory obligations earlier than offshore wind power turns into a actuality for the golden state, together with California Coastal Commission necessities.

The good distance from the lease to the constructing

Based on the necessities set forth in every of BOEM’s draft leases, every of the California offshore wind leases can have an preliminary time period of just one 12 months. To lengthen the lease time period, every firm should submit a web site evaluation plan (SAP) to BOEM and the California Coastal Commission for assessment or acquire approval for an extension.

Each web site evaluation plan should describe how the tenant plans to survey the leased space. The information collected in the course of the preliminary web site evaluation part will probably be utilized by every firm to inform their offshore wind designs. Although these surveys are a obligatory a part of offshore wind growth, they typically use loud, repetitive sound waves that may injure and even kill marine life. In addition, there’s a threat that the vessels working the surveying tools will collide with marine life, significantly whales.

However, to decrease potential impacts on marine life, every of the BOEM draft leases already consists of numerous survey necessities, together with a most pace of 10 knots for survey vessels, commissioned third-party observers of marine life on every survey vessel, and reporting necessities for authorities equivalent to BOEM to assess the influence of survey efforts have the ability. Through the survey plan assessment course of, BOEM and the California Coastal Commission have a chance to be sure that every firm’s survey plan meets tenancy necessities and permit the 2 businesses to implement further environmental safety measures.

Once a tenant has obtained regulatory approval of its web site evaluation plan, accomplished all approved surveys, and developed an offshore wind design, it prepares and submits a Construction and Operations Plan (COP) to BOEM and the California Coastal Commission. After every company conducts an preliminary assessment of the plan and any requested modifications are made, the COP undergoes a proper analysis underneath the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) earlier than receiving remaining federal approval.

The NEPA course of requires a federal “lead agency” – on this case BOEM – to put together a report that assesses the environmental influence of every offshore wind turbine. The public will then be invited to touch upon the draft report. Depending on the character of the feedback obtained, BOEM could then ask the tenant to conduct further research. After contemplating all feedback on the draft report, a remaining report will probably be revealed. If no new feedback on the content material of the ultimate report are submitted, the BOEM could make a remaining choice and thus conclude the NEPA process.

Once a remaining choice on a mission’s building and operational plan is launched, the mission can obtain approvals from many different businesses, such because the US Army Corps of Engineers and the National Marine Fisheries Service, which monitor US coastal waters and the species that reside there in them. Only in spite of everything regulatory approvals have been obtained and BOEM has issued a “Record of Decision” could building start in any of California’s 5 leaseholds.