U.S. offshore wind energy planning and development is front and center and accelerating at light speed. The Biden Administration announced a commitment to create 30 gigawatts of electricity via U.S. offshore wind by 2030. Congress provided a boost to offshore wind development late last year with a 30 percent investment tax credit to projects that start construction before 2026. In October 2021, U.S. Department of Interior (Interior) Secretary Deb Haaland announced plans to spur that development by offering up to seven offshore wind lease sales by 2025 in federal waters off the East, Gulf, and West coasts. In addition, at the recent COP26 in Glasgow, Secretary Haaland challenged other countries to join the U.S. in setting ambitious targets for offshore wind development, and provide the investments required to achieve them. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) within Interior has been busy making these policy statements a reality. BOEM approved the first commercial-scale offshore wind project in the U.S. off the coast of Massachusetts, announced upcoming lease sales for areas off New York and North Carolina, identified wind energy areas for potential leasing off the coast of California and is exploring new areas in the Gulf of Mexico, and will be reviewing at least 16 construction and operation plans for offshore wind facilities by 2025. And, that’s just the start of it.
For developers, utilities, and investors considering offshore wind opportunities, early consideration should be given to, among other things, (1) potential risks under federal environmental laws related to acquiring such leases and bringing a commercial offshore wind project online, and (2) actions that can be taken to minimize such risks.
BOEM’s current renewable energy leasing program for the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) occurs in four distinct phases:
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