If gas and oil are somewhat speculative outer continental shelf energy resources, wind energy is not. A January 2015 Bureau of Ocean Energy Management environmental assessment identified three areas off Kitty Hawk and Wilmington that are suitable for commercial development.
The areas comprise almost 200 square miles of ocean and are considered the most promising wind energy resource in the mid-Atlantic region.
Because wind is an energy resource, BOEM is responsible for overseeing its development. Similar to the oil and gas process, the agency sells leases for industrial use.
The permitting process for wind energy is comparable to the procedures used for oil and gas exploration, including state consistency reviews, although there are some significant differences.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 governs how BOEM sells wind-energy leases and how they are permitted. However, the law does not supersede other laws governing the use of the ocean. “EP Act . . . makes clear that federal agencies with permitting authority under other federal laws retain their jurisdiction,” Adam Vann, legislative attorney for the Congressional Research Service, wrote in a 2012 report to Congress.
Although the permitting process for wind energy is similar to oil and gas, it is not as time-consuming and lease sales for wind could occur by summer.
The sale of a lease gives the leaseholder the right to develop the resource, following a two-step permitting process. The first step is a test site to determine if the wind at that location is economically viable. If so, a permit for a permanent turbine site is required.