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BOEM sets date for largest US offshore wind lease sale yet in New York Bight

14 January 2022 IHS Markit Energy Expert

The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) set a February date for its largest offshore wind lease sale yet 12 January, a long-awaited opening up of waters near power-hungry New York City that includes unprecedented incentives for the use of Ameri­can-made materials and union labor by developers.

Still, BOEM cut back the amount of acreage offered for turbine installation in the New York Bight by more than 70% from initial plans in the hope of avoiding legal battles with maritime interests, especially the fishing industry, which has complained bitterly that wind farms in waters off New England would block their access to economically vital resource areas.

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland told reporters the cutback also was designed to minimize environmental impacts, and that even with the reduction, the planned 23 Febru­ary lease sale covered nearly 490,000 acres and included six lease areas, the most ever offered in a single auction.

Overall, BOEM expects the sale to result in 5.6-7 GW of offshore wind capac­ity that is vital to state plans to decarbonize New York City, which currently is heavily dependent on local natural gas-fired power plants and lacks the transmission capacity to import clean power from neighboring areas.

New York officials spent months trying to get the Trump administration to move on the New York Bight lease sale, which BOEM delayed for months, in part to examine the concerns of the fishing industry.

California, US Gulf plans also advance

The launch of the New York lease sale came as BOEM this week also advanced efforts on offshore wind develop­ment in California and the Gulf of Mexico as part of the Biden administration's plan to deploy 30 GW of offshore wind energy nationally by 2030 to help meet a goal of decarbonizing the US power sector by 2035.

BOEM on 11 January released draft environ­mental assessments of floating wind devel­opment in deep waters along California's coast, where the agency already has designated the Humboldt Wind Energy Area, and conven­tional turbine installation in the relatively shallow Gulf of Mexico.

The agency emphasized that any lease sale made in either California or the Gulf of Mexico will be followed by a more extensive environmental impact statement before any project moves forward.

Still, the continuing legal problems for offshore wind were underlined when a New Jersey-based conservation group called Save Long Beach Island sued BOEM in US District Court for the District of Columbia 10 January, contending the agency has failed to adequately assess environmental impacts from one of the New York Bight lease areas and nearby wind projects under development off New Jersey.

The fishing industry has also taken the agency to court, arguing that it failed to account for offshore wind's impacts on the industry and must redo its environmental findings.

BOEM said it will continue to engage with stakeholders as the process unfolds.

BOEM said the New York Bight announcement is part of a plan to hold up to seven new offshore wind lease sales by 2025. The agency has already issued 18 commercial offshore wind leases on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) as part of efforts to meet the Biden administration's 30-GW goal.

The New York Bight covers waters off the coast of the states of New York and New Jersey. New York plans to build 9 GW of offshore wind—the largest target for any state. New Jersey, meanwhile, wants to build 7.2 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2035.

Grid improvements needed

Executives, meanwhile, said in December there is also a lot of work to be done when it comes to the infrastructure for shipping the power produced to New York load centers.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul sought to deliver on those needs on 5 January, outlining plans to build an undersea grid system that would make it easier to ship thousands of megawatts directly to New York City. The "offshore wind grid" will be designed to deliver "at least 6 GW of offshore wind energy directly into New York City while minimizing onshore and ocean floor impacts," Hochul said in a statement in conjunction with her annual State of the State speech.

New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and other state agencies will initiate the plan by conducting a New York "cable corridor study" that will identify the best routes for undersea power lines to link offshore wind to the onshore grid.

--A version of this story by John Siciliano first appeared in The Energy Daily, www.theenergydaily.com

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