By Tommy Beaudreau, Janice Schneider, and David Amerikaner

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) convened the Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force for the New York Bight to discuss BOEM’s draft Call for Information and Nominations (Call) on December 4, 2017. The meeting, which was held via a webinar, marked an important step in the process to identify potential new wind energy areas (WEAs) in federal waters off of New York. BOEM plans to publish the Call in the Federal Register for formal public comment in late January or early February 2018 after considering inter-governmental input on the draft Call areas. With publication of the Call, BOEM will initiate the area identification process to delineate up to four potential new WEAs in the New York Bight, each with the estimated potential to generate at least 800 megawatts of electricity in support of the state’s renewable energy goals.

BOEM issued the draft Call, including the four new potential WEAs, in response to the New York State Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) request to review proposed WEAs in the waters off New York and to expedite the permitting process for offshore wind development. More information, including maps of New York’s Area for Consideration, is available on NYSERDA’s website.

New York is prioritizing the development of renewable energy, and adopted a Clean Energy Standard (CES) in 2016. The CES mandates that 50% of New York’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030, with a phase-in schedule beginning in 2017. Offshore wind energy stands to play a key role in meeting New York’s CES goals, which include a target of 2.4 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind power. New York is currently preparing an offshore wind Master Plan that outlines information about project siting and environmental and use conflicts within a 16,740 square-mile study area. The State is expected to issue the Master Plan soon.

Meeting Highlights

A range of federal, state, and local government agencies — along with entities in the offshore wind and commercial fishing industries, members of the general public, and other stakeholders — participated in the New York Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force’s webinar. The meeting featured the following presentations:

  • BOEM provided overviews of its offshore wind leasing process and the delineation of the four draft Call areas in the NY Bight – East End, Great South Bay, Hudson North, and Barnegat Bay. BOEM stated that it is targeting lease auctions for late 2019. Maps of the BOEM draft Call, in addition to all of the PowerPoint presentations used during the webinar, are available on the Bureau’s website.
  • The US Coast Guard presented its “Feedback on the Draft Call Areas,” which emphasized that “[t]he proposed WEAs are literally at the crossroads to the entrances of the three New York Bight [traffic separation schemes] where a large volume of tanker and cargo vessels transit inbound/outbound NY/NJ ports.” Accordingly, the US Coast Guard expressed its concern that the New York WEAs, as proposed at this stage, could result in “unacceptable increases in risk to navigational safety.”
  • The Department of Defense presented its Offshore Mission Compatibility Assessment, which largely found that military use conflicts within the WEAs could be managed with site-specific stipulations.

Next Steps

When BOEM publishes its formal Call in the Federal Register for public comment, the full range of interested parties and stakeholders — including offshore wind developers — will have the opportunity to weigh in on the area identification, siting, and de-confliction process. Members of the public will have 45 days to comment on the Call. In response to questions during the webinar, BOEM staff noted that the agency welcomed information about transmission proposals to connect potential offshore wind generation facilities to the grid.

BOEM identified three key considerations for the Task Force going forward:

  • How to address potential conflicts with marine traffic and navigation, military uses, commercial fishing, and cumulative wake effects
  • How best to consider the potential for future development of floating wind turbine technology
  • Whether a distance of 15 nautical miles from shore is sufficient to address viewshed concerns

Latham & Watkins LLP is closely following the development of offshore wind for New York and will continue to provide updates on this blog as BOEM and the State of New York progress towards leasing.

This post was prepared with the assistance of Kimberly Castle in the New York office of Latham & Watkins LLP.