Ocean Planning for Offshore Wind Development

In the coming days, Block Island Wind Farm (BIWF), the nation’s first offshore wind project, will be delivering electricity to the grid. While the project is small by global standards, 30 MW total, it is a pioneer in US waters and one with implications for offshore wind development in the US.

Rhode Island, home of the BIWF project, has long been a leader in offshore wind planning. The state, in anticipation of ocean development, launched a significant marine spatial planning effort that culminated in the 2010 RI Special Areas Management Plan (SAMP). The SAMP process included public outreach and many opportunities for public comment and participation. In addition, the SAMP identified areas potentially suitable for ocean development. Public acceptance and site selection for the BIWF were such efficient and smooth processes that other states have turned to Rhode Island for information about its marine spatial planning experience and advice on how best to engage with stakeholders in ocean planning. You can learn more about their advice and ocean planning in the Northeast from Clean Energy Group’s recent webinar with the University of Rhode Island and BOEM.

Coastal states are in various stages of ocean planning, site assessment, and environmental studies. The mid-Atlantic region recently released its draft Regional Ocean Plan. And the West Coast continues to gather information and coordinate federal, state, and local stakeholders around regional marine planning and the implementation of the National Ocean Policy. Clean Energy Group will be speaking with 3 of the regional marine planning coast leads on February 2nd in a 90-minute webinar (details here).

Similarly, New York, in which BOEM will hold a federal wind energy area lease auction on December 15th, has plans to conduct site assessments and environmental studies within the lease area. NYSERDA’s first step will be to measure wind speed and ocean waves on the lease site and has released a draft plan, called MetOcean. NYSERDA also plans other pre-development ocean planning activities such as wildlife surveys, sea bottom geophysical studies, environmental impacts studies, and engineering specs for electric cables. All these activities may reduce risks and project costs, and support efficient project development.

The next two weeks will be important for offshore wind in the US as we eagerly await the powering of the trail-blazing BIWF and the selection of New York’s wind lease area developer on Dec. 15th. Twelve other offshore wind project proposals in various stages of development are competing to be the next wind farm under construction.

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Val Stori serves as a Project Director for CESA and CEG. Val leads CESA’s Renewable Thermal and Biomass Thermal projects and the Interstate Turbine Advisory Council. Additionally, she co-leads several offshore wind initiatives including the Northeast Wind Resource Center, with a focus on stakeholder outreach. She has a Master of Studies in Environmental Law from Vermont Law School and a B.A. from Middlebury College in Environmental Studies/Conservation Biology.

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