It’s been six
years since the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management proposed
siting wind energy production off Kitty Hawk, and now the agency is
preparing to actually offer leases in offshore blocks more than 20
miles from the beach.
auction for the lease sites is expected early next year.
Virtually no one
at a public information meeting held Wednesday at Jennette’s Pier
seemed particularly concerned about the prospect.
“This is a
really important pivot in the process here,” said facilitator
Bennett Brooks, with the Consensus Building Institute.
Of the 43 people
who attended the session, only one person, Manny Medeiros, a frequent
critic of wind energy, spoke out in opposition to wind turbines
spinning above the ocean off the northern Outer Banks.
Kitty Hawk resident and real estate agent who is also a vocal climate
change skeptic, claimed that European wind operations are losing
money and asked why offshore wind energy is being pursued in the U.S.
knows that wind energy is the biggest blunder of our time,” he
Bennett, BOEM program manager, said that the U.S. has learned a lot
from Europeans’ experience.
passed the law, they based it on free-market principles,” he said.
“If the determination is that it’s not viable, if there are no
developers interested, then the government is not going to go forward
Shaped like a
ragged corner, the proposed 122,405-acre area is located 24 nautical
miles from Currituck Beach and about 32 nautical miles from Kitty
Hawk. A nautical mile equals about 1.15 standard miles. The wind
energy area is the same one that was announced in August 2014,
divided into 21.5 blocks, or lease units.
wind energy areas off Wilmington have since been realigned with BOEM
plans for South Carolina wind areas.
Division of Coastal Management is currently evaluating whether the
Kitty Hawk project is consistent with state coastal regulations.
If a lease is
awarded, the developer would be allowed to conduct a site assessment
that would determine whether the site would support commercial wind
energy development. The assessment would be conducted between 2017
Various maps on
placards lined the meeting room overlooking the ocean, depicting
numerous conflicts with birds, sea turtles, military interests,
vessel traffic and fishing. Chatting with people prior to start of
presentations, Brian Krevor, environmental protection specialist in
BOEM’s Office of Renewable Energy Programs, pointed to one map
showing the distance from the shoreline to the closest wind turbines.
The row of narrow towers, which could range from 450 to 600 feet in
height, would be virtually invisible, he said, especially in the
summer when humidity makes the skies hazy.
theoretically could see it from there, but you’re really at the
limits of human visual acuity,” he said.
Krevor said that
earlier concerns about blighted views and conflicts with vessel
travel had been resolved by meeting with stakeholders during the
planning process and methodically analyzing options. The current map
has been cleared with the Coast Guard and the U.S. Department of
Defense, he said.
had the blocks starting as close as six miles from the beach, but
were later adjusted at the town of Kitty Hawk’s request to place
them no closer than 20 miles from shore. And the National Park
Service’s concern about the project’s proximity to the Bodie
Island Lighthouse resulted in another reduction in size.
Kitty Hawk area is situated about 20 miles south of a wind energy
lease awarded in Virginia.
One person at
the meeting questioned the high relative cost of offshore wind,
compared with land-based wind and other energy sources.
BOEM project coordinator, said that as the scale of construction of
offshore wind goes up, the price of parts and labor can be expected
everybody is working to drive down that cost,” he said.
Ken Jobe, a
Beaufort resident with Citizens Climate Lobby, asked about the value
and quality of the wind resource off Kitty Hawk.
But that is a
question with no easy answer, Waskes said. In general, the industry
believes that there is good wind data. Specific measurements of wind
speeds that would spin turbines high in the air, he said, are not yet
would be measured by a contractor after a lease sale is awarded, he
said. The developer would tailor the turbine height and type to the
resource, and a construction plan would have to be submitted to BOEM
So far, $16
million in lease sales have been issued by BOEM for 11 commercial
offshore Atlantic wind facilities, nine of which were competitive –
two each off New Jersey, Massachusetts, Maryland and Rhode
Island-Massachusetts; and one off Virginia.
project off Block Island in Rhode Island, which is mostly in state
waters, is set to start operating this fall – making it the first
U.S. offshore wind facility to produce energy. Sightseeing tours of
the project are already being conducted, according to local news
representatives declined to project which offshore wind project will
be most likely the next to come online. Lots of factors can come into
play, they cautioned, including local support or opposition, legal
challenges and regulatory and construction glitches.
staging equipment and the location of the sub-surface power cable
will also be known only after the construction and operations plan
that meets regulatory requirements is submitted, Waskes said in
answering another person’s question about infrastructure.
little ahead of the game,” he said. “Ultimately, it will be the
developer who picks the location.”
lease sale, announced Aug. 12, would be for a single lease that can
only be awarded to one entity. But regulations allow the assignment
of all or a portion of the lease to other entities. The online
auction is anticipated to be held in January or February 2017, with a
lease sale to be awarded to the highest bidder.
The notice also
requests that prospective qualified bidders affirm their interest in
offshore commercial wind development off Kitty Hawk. It also allows
for additional bidders to submit their qualifications before the Oct.
17 deadline. Public comments will be accepted in the same period.
So far, BOEM has
qualified five developers to bid on all or portions of the area: Apex
Clean Energy, EDF Renewable Energy, Green Sailene, Dominion Power
North Carolina and Fishermen’s Energy.
A final sale
notice, issued after a review period, will be published to announce
the date and time of the lease sale. After leases are issued and the
construction plan is approved, BOEM will prepare an environmental
analysis. The lessee has up to 25 years to develop a plan.
that the Kitty Hawk project fits the United States’ strategic
vision for increased wind development, while decreasing dependence on
fossil fuels to meet the nation’s energy needs.
hopeful that this will contribute to the administration’s Climate
Action Plan,” he said. “Offshore wind is an important component
to achieving this goal.”
public comment period ends Oct. 17 and comments may be submitted
by electronically or by mail.
In the entry entitled, “Enter Keyword or ID,” enter
BOEM-2016-0045, then click “search.” Follow the instructions to
submit public comments.
Mail or deliver in an envelope
labeled “Comments on North Carolina PSN & RFI” to:
Office of Renewable Energy Programs
45600 Woodland Road,
Sterling, VA 20166
article is provided by Coastal Review Online, an online news service
covering North Carolina's coast. Sam Walker is a reporter for the
Outer Banks Voice. For more news, features, and information about the
coast, go to www.coastalreview.org.)