Offshore wind auctions proposed off coasts of New England, Oregon

May 1, 2024

The Department of the Interior has unveiled two proposals for offshore wind energy auctions in the waters off Oregon and in the Gulf of Maine. The projects would have the potential to produce over 18 gigawatts of offshore wind energy, which could power more than 6 million households, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) said.

The Proposed Sale Notices (PSNs) are the first two of 12 announced last week by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland as part of the agency’s five-year initiative to identify viable utility-scale offshore wind projects.

“As we move forward with offshore wind energy in Oregon and the Gulf of Maine, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management remains dedicated to close collaboration with our government partners and key stakeholders,” BOEM Director Elizabeth Klein said.

These proposed auctions are the result of a planning process spanning multiple years and involving engagement with tribes, local communities, federal and state agencies, and ocean users to balance social, ecological and economic factors.

BOEM collaborated with National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) to identify optimal wind energy areas. The agencies prioritized avoiding interference with fishing grounds and transit routes while allocating enough space to support each region’s offshore wind energy objectives.

Gulf of Maine

The auction in the Gulf of Maine includes eight lease areas totaling nearly 1 million acres off of Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, with the potential to generate roughly 15 gigawatts.

Several rounds of public and stakeholder comment took place in 2010 as the project approached the PSN stage.

Another round of public input opens Wednesday and runs through July 1 and will include a series of in-person open houses and virtual meetings that will also cater to commercial interests in the project area. BOEM will release agendas for these meetings in the coming weeks.

Oregon Coast

BOEM is proposing two areas offshore of Oregon: The Brookings Wind Energy Area (WEA) – 133,792 acres about 18 miles from shore – and the Coos Bay WEA, which consists of 61,203 acres some 32 miles offshore.

In addition to the public comment period that will run concurrently with that for the Gulf of Maine proposals, a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) will be released Wednesday, starting a 30-day comment period.

The EA is part of the formal environmental review process under the National Environmental Policy Act. BOEM is preparing an EA to consider the environmental consequences associated with issuing commercial wind leases in the Oregon WEAs.

The environmental impacts of proposed wind energy projects will be assessed after a lease is issued and before BOEM decides whether to approve any project construction and operations plan (COP). Comments can be submitted online, in writing or during a virtual public meeting slated for May 21.

Photo courtesy of the Interior Department

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