BOEM issues first marine energy lease for west coast waters

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) of the United States has issued the first marine renewable energy research lease in federal waters off the west coast for a wave energy project.

PacWave sites (Courtesy of PacWave)
PacWave sites (Courtesy of PacWave)

The federal marine hydrokinetic energy (MHK) research lease, issued on January 19, 2021, has been offered to Oregon State University (OSU) for the PacWave South project, a proposed open ocean wave energy test center located approximately six nautical miles off Newport in Oregon.

The research lease covers the area of approximately 4,270 acres or 2.65 square miles, BOEM said.

Wave energy converters that will be tested at PacWave South are floating or underwater devices that are moored to the seafloor and capture energy from the moving waves.

Lease issuance by BOEM is a prerequisite for a license from Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which is the Federal Agency that would approve project construction and operations.

OSU filed the PacWave South final license application with FERC on May 30, 2019. The PacWave research lease is the first MHK lease to be issued off the west coast under the joint BOEM-FERC authority over marine hydrokinetic projects on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

In October 2013, OSU submitted an unsolicited request for a research lease for a grid-connected wave energy test site.

The project will consist of four test berths to support the testing of up to 20 wave energy converter (WEC) devices, with an installed capacity not to exceed 20MW, to demonstrate the viability of wave energy.

In June 2014, BOEM determined there was no competitive interest in the area requested by OSU and proceeded with the leasing process on a non-competitive basis. BOEM participated as a cooperating agency with FERC’s environmental review of the project, including in the preparation of the Environmental Assessment.

On April 23, 2020, FERC issued an Environmental Assessment for the PacWave South project, which includes BOEM’s environmental analysis associated with lease issuance.

Jurisdiction for grid-connected MHK projects on the OCS is shared by BOEM and FERC. BOEM has authority to issue leases, easements, and rights-of way, and FERC has authority to issue licenses for the construction and operations of MHK projects on the OCS.

To remind, PacWave and the Pacific Marine Energy Center (PMEC) have recently released a Request for Information (RFI) focused on understanding the testing needs of future PacWave clients and marine energy stakeholders.

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More specifically, the RFT is related to the development of the South PacWave open ocean wave energy test facility which is scheduled to be operational in the spring of 2023, according to PMEC.