US offshore wind auctions pushed back

Setback for DoI plan to complete tendering in 2012

The first competitive auctions for US offshore wind leases will not be held this year as originally predicted. They are now expected to go ahead in February 2013 at the earliest.

The Department of the Interior had planned to complete tendering for leases within the Rhode Island/Massachusetts wind energy area before the end of 2012. But Interior agency the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is still preparing the proposed sales notices that are a prerequisite to the auction. It is doing the same for the Virginia wind energy area.

Once the notices are published, BOEM will run a 60-day comment period. It will then revise the documents if necessary, publish final sales notices, and follow this with lease auctions at least 30 days later.

"I wouldn’t say there was anything that particularly delayed the process," Maureen Bornholdt, BOEM’s renewable energy programme manager, told Windpower Offshore. "We’re trying to sort through the complexity of these issues and make sure we move forward with the best proposal possible." She also noted that the process has required coordination between a number of agencies. "And when you coordinate on that scale, that does take time."

Bornholdt said the sales notices would offer up the Virginia wind energy area as one large zone, and the Rhode Island/Massachusetts area as two zones under two leases. That area is separate from the similarly-named Massachusetts wind energy area.  

The notices will lay out key bidding information such as the rent BOEM will charge, what blocks are available, environmental conditions, and possibly operating requirements for meteorological towers. The sales notices will also offer more information about how BOEM will run the auctions, Bornholdt said.

The Rhode Island/Massachusetts wind energy area comprises about 164,750 acres (667 sq km) south of Martha’s Vineyard and east of Block Island. Last year, eight developers registered their interest in the area: Deepwater Wind, Energy Management, enXco, Fishermen’s Energy, Iberdrola Renewables, Mainstream Renewable Power, Neptune Wind and US Wind.

The Virginia wind energy area comprises about 112,799 acres (456 sq km) east of Virginia Beach. Eight developers expressed an interest in that area: Apex, Arcadia, Cirrus Wind Energy, Dominion Virginia Power, enXco, Fishermen’s Energy, Iberdrola and Orisol Energy.