U.S. gears up for Maryland auction

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offshore wind - reNEWSCompetition for U.S. offshore leases in the Atlantic is expected to heat up. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in the coming weeks will launch an auction for the Maryland offshore wind energy area, the first of three sales planned in 2014, said BOEM offshore renewable energy program manager Maureen Bornholdt.

Waters off New Jersey and Massachusetts will also go to market next year.

“We are hoping to publish the Maryland proposed sale notice (PSN) before the end of the year,” said Bornholdt.

Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said recently the PSN, including lease provisions and auction details on the area about 10 miles east of Ocean City, was to be issued in mid-October but got held up by the government shutdown.

There will be a 60-day public comment period on the PSN after which BOEM will issue a final sale notice.

The agency in 2013 identified a 79,706-acre Maryland call area that contains nine whole outer continental shelf blocks and 11 partial blocks. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory recommended splitting the zone into two lease areas of 400MW to 600MW each.

Maryland this year passed a law requiring utilities to buy offshore renewable energy credits. It’s designed to spur construction of a 200MW offshore wind farm.

A number of wind developers have expressed an interest in building projects off Maryland. Arcadia Offshore, Cape Wind developer Energy Management, EDF, and Fishermen’s Energy put their names next to the entire call area while RES Americas and Orisol said they’re interested in a portion of it. Bluewater, Seawind, Iberdrola and Maryland Offshore Wind have also expressed interest.

The bureau aims to launch auctions for federal waters off New Jersey and Massachusetts in the first quarter of 2014, said Bornholdt.

“We’re probably going to auction them off as more than one single lease area,” said Bornholdt.

No other sales are planned for 2014.

“The next round of proposed sale notices could include areas identified offshore North Carolina and New York,” Bornholdt told reNews. The agency would first conduct environmental assessments and stakeholder consultation.