The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is issuing a revised environmental assessment (EA) and a finding of no significant impact (FONSI) related to research on generating electricity from hydrokinetic energy in the waters off Florida.
BOEM is considering the environmental impacts and socioeconomic effects of issuing a lease in offshore Florida. The proposed lease would authorize the installation, operation, relocation, and decommissioning of technology testing facilities within the lease area, such as deployment of technology demonstration devices, single anchor moorings, and mooring telemetry buoys, said BOEM in a notice to be published in the Aug. 13 Federal Register.
The FONSI concluded that the environmental impacts associated with the preferred alternative would not significantly impact the environment. Therefore, the preparation of an environmental impact statement (EIS) is not required.
In May 2011, BOEM published a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an EA. In April 2012, BOEM released an EA for a 30-day public review. After the comment period closed, Florida Atlantic University Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center proposed to also conduct ocean current turbine tow tests concurrent with survey activities. To address the comments received and consider additional activities associated with the proposed action, BOEM revised the EA.
The purpose of issuing a lease to Florida Atlantic University Southeast National Marine Renewable Energy Center (FAU SNMREC) for OCS Blocks 7003, 7053, and 7054 is to authorize installation and operation of experimental devices and deployment of infrastructure to: evaluate environmental and resource effects of operating ocean current turbines (OCT); demonstrate and evaluate technology needs for further marine hydrokinetic (MHK) development; develop and evaluate methodologies and procedures to safely and responsibly test experimental commercial devices; and develop and refine tools to characterize performance, effects, and technologies necessary for MHK progress.
The proposed activities are needed to inform the future deployment of commercial-scale MHK energy production on the OCS, in this instance using the Florida Current.
Alternative A in the revised EA, which is the proposed action, would authorize technology testing in the entirety of OCS Blocks 7003, 7053, and 7054 for a limited term of five years. Under the proposed action, FAU SNMREC would first deploy a single-anchor mooring attached to a mooring and telemetry buoy (MTB), and test, for limited periods, equipment designed to use the Florida Current to generate electricity. The MTB, similar to NOMAD weather buoys, would be deployed at variable intervals throughout the year. FAU SNMREC then intends to deploy two additional MTBs later in the lease period. The additional MTBs would be operational simultaneously with the first MTB. This would result in three total technology testing facilities operating on the leasehold at any one time.