U.S. ocean energy managers are moving closer to leasing sites in federal waters offshore California for wind energy development. Acting in response to a lease area requested by Trident Winds, LLC, this month the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) issued a Request for Interest in that area to evaluate whether any other developer is interested in competing for a lease.
Trident Winds has initiated development of a commercial scale offshore wind farm off Point Estero, California. Its Morro Bay or MBO Project would be located in federal waters about 33 nautical miles northwest of Morro Bay; the site
features water depths of 2,600 to 3,300 feet. In light of these site
conditions, Trident Winds' proposed project would consist of 100 floating foundations, each supporting a wind turbine generating 7-8 megawatts of energy.
Electricity would be brought ashore via a single
Trident Winds requested a commercial wind lease from BOEM on January 14, 2016, covering a
lease area. Because BOEM had not previously solicited interest in leasing this area, BOEM treated Trident Winds' request as "unsolicited." Under BOEM's offshore renewable energy program, when presented with an unsolicited lease request, BOEM first evaluates whether the developer is qualified to hold a lease on the Outer Continental Shelf. In the case of Trident Winds, BOEM made this determination following consultation with the state of California.
Following this qualification determination, BOEM's next step is to determine whether it is appropriate to issue the company a lease on a
non-competitive basis, or whether a competitive process is required. To inform this competitive interest determination, on August 17, 2016, BOEM published a Potential Commercial Leasing for Wind Power on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Offshore California, Request for Interest
in the Federal Register, with a 30-day public comment period. If BOEM finds competitive interest, it will initiate a competitive
leasing process for the California site. If no expressions of interest are received, BOEM will
proceed with its noncompetitive leasing process.
At the same time, BOEM is also seeking
public comment on the project proposal, its potential environmental
consequences, and other uses of the project area such as navigation, fishing, military activities, recreation. BOEM will also use responses to shape its decisionmaking
and to flag potential issues for analysis under the National
Environmental Policy Act.
So far, BOEM has awarded 11
commercial wind energy leases for sites off the Atlantic coast, nine of which came from competitive lease sales that generated
about $16 million in winning bids. BOEM has also recently announced proposed lease sales for sites offshore North Carolina and New York. In the Pacific, BOEM is evaluating 3 unsolicited lease requests offshore Hawaii and has published a Call for Interest in Hawaiian site leasing.