Ocean bureau seeks interest in offshore wind leasing off of South Carolina

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will in the Nov. 25 Federal Register issue a call for information and nominations for commercial leasing for wind power on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore of South Carolina.

BOEM invites the submission of nominations for commercial wind leases that would allow a lessee to propose the construction of a wind energy project on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) in this area, and to develop the project if approved after further environmental review. Although this announcement is not itself a leasing announcement, the Call Areas described in it, or portions thereof, may be available for future leasing. BOEM will use responses to this call to gauge specific interest in acquiring commercial wind leases in some or all of the Call Areas.

This announcement also requests comments and information from interested and affected parties about site conditions, resources, and multiple uses in close proximity to, or within, the Call Areas that would be relevant to BOEM’s review of any nomination submitted and/or to BOEM’s subsequent decision to offer all or part of the Call Areas for commercial wind leasing.

The Call Areas described in this notice are located on the OCS offshore South Carolina and are delineated as Grand Strand, Cape Romain, Winyah, and Charleston. The four Call Areas include 110 whole OCS blocks and 84 partial blocks in total and comprise approximately 1,007.56 square nautical miles (nmi) (345,584 hectares). These Call Areas were established in consultation with the BOEM South Carolina Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force.

BOEM must receive nominations describing any interest in one or more, or any portion of the Call Areas, within 60 days after this Federal Register notice.

BOEM intends to prepare an environmental assessment (EA), which will consider the environmental consequences associated with issuing commercial wind leases and approving site assessment activities on those leases within all or some of the Call Areas. BOEM is publishing, concurrently with this call, a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an EA, which seeks public input in identifying the environmental issues and reasonable alternatives to be considered in the EA.

The EA will consider the reasonably foreseeable environmental consequences associated with leasing and site characterization scenarios within the Call Areas (including geophysical, geotechnical, archaeological, and biological surveys), and site assessment scenarios (including the installation and operation of meteorological towers and/or buoys) on the potential leaseholds. The environmental effects of the construction or operation of any wind energy facility would be considered under a separate, project-specific National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process.

The state of South Carolina has been engaged in a planning process to evaluate and identify areas of the OCS that may be suitable for offshore wind energy development. This process helped inform state recommendations to BOEM regarding potentially suitable areas for BOEM to consider when moving forward with its offshore wind energy leasing process.

In 2008, the South Carolina General Assembly passed Act 318 to create the Wind Energy Production Farms Feasibility Study Committee to study and make recommendations regarding the feasibility of wind turbines in the state, as well as the potential economic and environmental impacts of development.

Also in 2008, South Carolina, along with partners, obtained a U.S. Department of Energy grant entitled, “The South Carolina Roadmap to Gigawatt-Scale Coastal Clean Energy Generation: Transmission, Regulation & Demonstration.” The grant funded an offshore wind transmission study; a wind, wave, and current study; and a comprehensive spatial database on existing resources and activities. Also funded under this grant was a South Carolina Regulatory Task Force, which was established in 2009 to review the current regulatory environment and identify potential barriers to wind, wave and tidal energy development off of South Carolina. This group is composed of state and federal regulatory and resource protection agencies, universities, private industry and utility companies, and is distinct from BOEM’s Task Force.

In 2014, BOEM initiated a cooperative research agreement with South Carolina that was coordinated through the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium. Information from this research agreement will assist BOEM in planning efforts offshore South Carolina, including environmental documents and consultations.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.