BOEM Seeking Comments on Environmental Assessment
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced that it is seeking public comment as it prepares an Environmental Assessment (EA) to analyze potential impacts from proposed wind energy research activities offshore Virginia.
The Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) has requested a research lease and proposes to design, develop, and demonstrate a grid-connected, 12-megawatt (MW) offshore wind test facility on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) off the coast of Virginia. The proposed project area is located adjacent to the BOEM-designated Wind Energy Area (WEA) offshore Virginia, and will inform the future production of renewable energy within the WEA.
Today, BOEM will publish in the Federal Register a “Notice of Intent to Prepare an Environmental Assessment” regarding the proposed project for a 30-day public comment period. Once published, BOEM will accept comments that are postmarked by April 14, 2014.
The proposed wind test facility offshore Virginia is one of seven proposed “Offshore Wind Demonstration Projects” for the nation’s coasts that received U.S. Department of Energy funding awards in December 2012. The award was given to Dominion Resources, Inc., which partnered with DMME and others to establish the Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project (VOWTAP). Dominion Resources was the winner of a recent commercial lease sale held for the Virginia WEA.
Before VOWTAP can install any facilities on the OCS, it must obtain BOEM approval. Therefore, DMME submitted a proposal to BOEM on Feb. 13, 2013, to install and operate two 6 MW turbines located about 24 nautical miles offshore Virginia with cables connecting to existing infrastructure located in the City of Virginia Beach.
As an initial step in BOEM’s leasing process, BOEM published a “Public Notice of an Unsolicited Request for an OCS Research Lease, Request for Competitive Interest, and Request for Public Comment” in the Federal Register on July 30, 2013, to obtain public input on this research proposal, its potential environmental consequences, and the use of the area in which the proposed project would be located. BOEM also asked whether there were other entities interested in obtaining a renewable energy lease of the same scale within the same area identified by DMME that would support potential wind energy development.
In response to this notice, BOEM received five comments, none of which expressed competitive interest in the area proposed by DMME. Accordingly, BOEM published a “Determination of No Competitive Interest” in the Federal Register on Dec. 9, 2013, stating that it will proceed with the leasing process on a non-competitive basis. The decision cleared the way for DMME to submit a research activities plan.
A lease issued to DMME would be considered under BOEM’s Finding of No Significant Impact and EA for Lease Issuance and Site Assessment Activities on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf Offshore New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. The EA for which BOEM is now seeking public comment will consider the reasonably foreseeable environmental consequences associated with the activities and facilities proposed in the research activities plan (e.g., installation and operation of turbines and cables).
Press release, March 14, 2014; Image: boem