Two European developers — PNE Wind AG and Statoil — have proposed two separate offshore wind farms off the northeast coast of the United States, and are asking the US government to open up new offshore sites.
The US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) revealed last week that it received two unsolicited lease requests from German developer PNE Wind AG and Norwegian oil and gas company Statoil to develop offshore wind farms on the Outer Continent Shelf (OCS). Specifically, the unsolicited requests are seeking permission to look at developing on offshore sites which have not hitherto been opened up for interest, and therefore currently have not been properly vetted for impact on the environment and animal life.
According to the BOEM, PNE Wind has submitted three separate unsolicited requests for Lease — one off the coast of Long Island in New York, and two off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts — and Statoil has submitted for the same area.
PNE’s first request is for a lease of 40,920 acres off the coast of Long Island for a project it is calling NY4-Excelsior Wind Park, a project which would have a preliminary capacity of between 300 and 400 megawatts (MW). In its request, PNE note that, “This is an unsolicited application for a potential lease area that has not been identified previously, although it is located not too far from the New York Wind Energy Area (WEA) for which a lease auction was held on December 15-16, 2016 and for which an Environmental Assessment (EA) exists.”
PNE bills itself in the request as “an international project developer of onshore and offshore wind farms” and has, since 1990, developed more than 200 onshore wind farms, and has an offshore wind pipeline in Germany of just over 2,800 MW.
The next step for this particular project will be for the BOEM to decide whether to move forward at all, and then to issue a public notice to determine whether there is any competitive interest in bidding for the specific area.
The second area, located off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, has received unsolicited interest from both PNE Wind and Statoil. The proposed lease area is actually two separate areas — labelled OCS-A 0502 and 0503 — and measures approximately 248,015 acres and 140,554 acres respectively.
Because both PNE and Statoil have both requested the same lease areas, BOEM has determined that “competitive interest exists” and will therefore proceed with a competitive leasing process. PNE has proposed two 400 MW wind farms, whereas Statoil has gone with the more abstract idea of highlighting the overall potential of the area — which it determines is anywhere from 3 to 15 gigawatts (GW).
News of the unsolicited requests has raised some eyebrows, with environmentalists and community leaders questioning the viability of the moves. Specifically, according to a news piece written by News 12 Long Island, “Local environmentalists and community leaders are questioning a German company’s plan to build a wind farm off Fire Island.” The article quotes Adrienne Esposito, of the Citizens Campaign for the Environment, who raises the question of whether the Long Island area would receive the appropriate environmental studies.
However, given the current climate of wind energy development, there has been no real evidence that companies are willing to skirt the law on these feasibility studies, and many developers have actually gone out of their way to accommodate wildlife and sea life.