The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Wednesday announced that a 30-day public comment period has begun on eight draft offshore wind energy areas, including off the North Carolina coast.
BOEM said it will hold virtual public meetings to engage the fishing community and environmental organizations to gather more information on the proposed areas and discuss next steps.
The proposed areas cover about 1.7 million acres off North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. The distances to their closest points range from about 19 to 77 nautical miles offshore.
“As BOEM moves forward to identify wind energy areas in the central Atlantic, we continue to prioritize a robust and transparent process, including early engagement with Tribal governments, state and federal agencies and ocean users,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton in a statement. “We want to gather as much information and traditional knowledge as possible to help us identify Wind Energy Areas — the offshore areas that are most suitable for commercial wind energy activities while having the fewest apparent environmental and user conflicts.”
Environmental and energy advocates praised the announcement.
“Today’s announcement lays the groundwork for additional offshore wind development in the Atlantic, which will help lower energy costs, create jobs, and fight climate change. Unlike dirty and dangerous offshore drilling that pollutes our waters, worsens the climate crisis, and harms frontline communities, offshore wind can support a just and equitable transition away from the fossil fuels that are driving the climate crisis,″ said Oceana Campaign Director Diane Hoskins in a statement.
“With growing offshore wind opportunities, the states along the Central Atlantic coast have a chance to become part of the next wave of offshore wind hubs. While these states will clearly benefit tremendously from jobs and investment associated with offshore wind development, the benefits will stretch across our nation,” said National Ocean Industries Association President Erik Milito in a statement.
Federal officials said the process to identify the potential offshore locations considered areas that appear most suitable for renewable energy development. BOEM said it collaborated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science to use an ocean planning model that seeks to minimize conflicts.
The eight areas were carved out of the original 3.9 million acres that the Department of the Interior announced for public comment in April. Officials said the final areas may be further changed based on feedback from government partners, ocean users and stakeholders.
BOEM seeks comment on potential conflicts, including with a potential U.S. Coast Guard “fairway” for transiting vessels, commercial fishing, a NASA danger zone, and marine habitat areas.
BOEM said it intends to further explore the areas with the Department of Defense, Coast Guard, NASA and other ocean users, such as the fishing industry, to collect additional information that should be considered before finalizing the wind energy areas.
Meetings have been set for the following dates:
- 12:30 p.m. Nov. 30 for fishing community and related interests.
- 1:30 p.m. Dec. 1 for environmental organizations.
To comment on the draft wind energy areas, visit regulations.gov and search for docket number BOEM-2022-0072. BOEM will accept comments through 11:59 p.m. Dec. 16.
For more information visit https://www.boem.gov/renewable-energy/state-activities/central-atlantic.