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MD - BOEM drops proposed Maryland area from offshore wind auction amid Defense, NASA concerns

The upcoming Central Atlantic offshore wind auction will not include the wind energy area offshore Maryland that was finalized in July – only the WEAs offshore Virginia and Delaware, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced in a proposed sale notice released Monday.

  • To help Maryland still meet its goal of deploying 8.5 GW of offshore wind by 2031, BOEM said that the Departments of the Interior and Defense, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Coast Guard, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the state’s two senators and Gov. Wes Moore, D, will work jointly to evaluate new WEAs.
  • The loss of the Maryland lease area is “disappointing,” Jamie DeMarco, Maryland director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, or CCAN.

Dive Insight:

When the three lease areas were finalized in July, they had shrunk 79% since they were initially proposed, “far above what is usually cut,” DeMarco said at the time.

He had initially hoped to see a Central Atlantic auction include areas supporting up to 11 GW of offshore wind capacity, but BOEM said in July that the finalized WEAs could support between 4 and 8 GW. With one of those areas now removed, the proposed sale is “insufficient,” DeMarco said.

The WEAs were initially cut down due to objections from the Department of Defense on the grounds that offshore wind development in the area could interfere with military exercises, and the Maryland area was removed from consideration entirely due to the significant costs and collective mitigation that sharing the area with DOD and NASA would impose.

BOEM said in its proposed sale notice that interested bidders “should be aware of potential conflicts with DOD’s existing uses of the OCS.”

These conflicts include impacts to North American Aerospace Defense Command surveillance that will require the lessee to notify NORAD about development milestones and pay a minimum of $80,000 to DOD for each radar system impacted, along with an Air Force-imposed limit on structure heights to no more than 1,000 feet above sea level.

BOEM’s release said that an alternative WEA offshore Maryland will be identified for a subsequent offshore wind lease sale “as early as 2025.” DeMarco said CCAN had been told that this deadline would be put in writing.

“An in-depth review of WEA B-1 determined that, given the significant costs and mitigation that would be required, advancing wind energy development in WEA B-1 at this time was not viable,” BOEM said regarding the Maryland lease area. “The Administration has preliminarily identified acreage off Maryland’s coast of a similar size and wind energy generation capacity to B-1.”

That area will be “analyzed more fully and collaboratively” by the state of Maryland, BOEM, and other federal agencies.

The notice states that the auction for the nearly 278,000 acres of remaining lease areas will take place in mid-2024. The proposed sale notice, published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, will remain open for comment for 60 days.

Liz Burdock, founder and CEO of Oceantic Network, said in a Monday statement that the current acreage identified will not be enough to help Central Atlantic states meet their offshore wind goals, which they are “depending on” as the “cornerstone of their clean energy futures and created policies to position the region as an industry manufacturing and logistics hub.”

However, Burdock said that the Network “applauds” the commitments made by the federal government and Maryland leaders to “quickly” identify new shallow-water wind areas for auction as soon as 2025.

“I'm really grateful to President Biden and BOEM’s commitments to future offshore lease sales,” DeMarco said, but added that he had concerns about the 2025 sale coming to fruition under a second Trump administration.

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