As part of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan to create American jobs, develop clean energy sources and cut carbon pollution, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the first step to support wind energy development in federal waters offshore Hawaii, by issuing a call for information and nominations to gauge the wind industry’s interest in commercial wind leases in two areas offshore Oahu.
“Today’s announcement marks another milestone in the President’s plan to support clean, renewable energy from the Nation’s vast wind and solar resources,” said Secretary Jewell. “Hawaii has important offshore wind energy potential, and we will continue our work with stakeholders across the spectrum to create a path forward for sustainable offshore energy development in the right places with the lowest conflicts across the Aloha State.”
In consultation with the Hawaii Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force, Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) issued a Call for Information and Nominations (Call) to gauge the offshore wind industry’s interest in acquiring commercial wind leases in two areas spanning approximately 485,000 acres of submerged lands in federal waters offshore Oahu. The Call also solicits public comment on site conditions, resources and other uses in and near those areas, while also supporting the Aloha State’s ambitious goal of reaching 100 percent clean energy generation by 2045.
“As Hawaiians are well aware, energy can be expensive due to the transportation costs of fossil fuels that are needed to supply the state,” said Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Janice Schneider. “Under the leadership of Governor Ige and the Hawaii legislature, together we are making progress on creating the policy framework necessary to spur the development of offshore wind energy technology, helping further their goal of producing 100 percent of the State’s electricity from renewable sources.”
The announcement builds on BOEM’s work to foster offshore renewable energy development through a collaborative federal-state process. To date, BOEM’s offshore program has identified wind energy areas in federal waters off seven Atlantic states and awarded 11 commercial wind energy leases off that coast. Nine of those leases were issued as a result of competitive lease sales that generated about $16 million in winning bids for more than one million acres. Earlier this month, BOEM announced it will propose an offshore wind lease sale for an area offshore New York.
In the Pacific, BOEM is processing three unsolicited commercial floating wind lease requests offshore Hawaii and one offshore California, as well as evaluating an unsolicited lease request for a floating wind demonstration project offshore Oregon. BOEM has invested millions of dollars in ongoing environmental and technological studies designed to inform its regulatory process as offshore development proceeds.
“This announcement represents a significant step in facilitating the responsible development of offshore renewable energy to power homes and businesses on the island of Oahu,” said BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper. “We are working with the State of Hawaii, industry and a broad range of stakeholders to ensure that commercial wind leasing is done in a transparent manner that engages stakeholders throughout the process.”
In addition to the Call, BOEM is publishing in the Federal Register a Notice of Intent (NOI) to Prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) in the Call area. The NOI seeks public comment for determining issues and alternatives to be analyzed in the EA, which will consider potential environmental and socioeconomic effects associated with issuing commercial wind leases and approving site assessment activities in the Call area, or parts of that area that BOEM may decide are suitable for leasing.
Once published in the Federal Register, BOEM will accept public comments on the Call and the NOI for 45 days. BOEM will also hold public information meetings to provide additional opportunities for the public to comment and learn more about the process.
Image credit: By Jeff Kubina – originally posted to Flickr as Na Pali Coast, Kauai, Hawaii, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8703886