Interior Department Launches Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Initiative

November 24, 2010

The Department of the Interior (DOI) on November 23 launched a "Smart from the Start" wind energy initiative to speed offshore wind development on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. The program is designed to spur development of offshore wind resources by facilitating how new projects are sited, leased, and constructed. The accelerated leasing process is being simplified through a regulatory change so that leases may be issued in 2011 or early 2012.

Under the Smart from the Start initiative, DOI's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) is proposing a revision to its regulations that will cut the red tape for offshore leasing when there is only one qualified, interested developer. The revision eliminates a redundant step, and could save up to 6–12 months. The new Smart from the Start approach would focus on "wind energy areas" (WEA), offshore locations that appear most suitable for wind energy development and which are being targeted by eight state-federal task forces or the Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium, established earlier this year with DOI and 11 coastal state governors. Participants would collect data for these high priority areas to better inform government and industry, allowing more efficient permitting and siting.

Within the next 60 days, BOEMRE will work with states to identify WEAs off the coasts of Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Virginia. By January 2011, Requests for Interest and Calls for Information will be issued for these new WEAs to support lease-sale environmental assessments. Additional WEAs will be identified in 2011 for other Atlantic states, which may include Georgia, Maine, New York, North Carolina, and South Carolina. If no significant impacts are identified in the WEAs, BOEMRE would offer leases in these areas by the end of 2011 or early 2012. See the DOI press release, a fact sheet on the initiativePDF, the fact sheet on the Direct Final RulePDF, and the BOEMRE Renewable Energy Web site.