By Elizabeth Barminski
Last Thursday the Virginia & North Carolina Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force met in Virginia Beach to discuss the current status of the region’s offshore wind leases. Jim Bennet, BOEM, provided an overview of the Atlantic Renewable Energy Leasing Program, highlighting the benefits and the incredible potential in the region. John Warren from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME) commented on the offshore wind potential and the corresponding demand for electricity along the East Coast. Jennifer Mudd, the head of the North Carolina Task Force, offered opening comments about the value of the offshore wind resource.
Casey Reeves, BOEM, started the presentations with an overview of lease activities offshore North Carolina and Virginia – the NC Kitty Hawk Lease to Avangrid Renewables, VA Lease to Orsted, and the VA Research Lease to the VA Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy. Will Waskes, BOEM, presented on the NC Kitty Hawk Atlantic Wind Lease Sale 7. Avangrid Renewables won the auction in March 2017 and the post auction process initiated November 1st 2017 beginning the preliminary term. Craig Poff and Keith Morrison, Avangrid Renewables, shared an overview of the company’s investments in the US market, noting the existing strong presence in North Carolina with the Amazon Wind Farm. Avangrid is preparing to submit a SAP on November 1st 2018 deadline, which will conclude the first year of the site assessment 5-year plan. Task force members inquired about the company’s outreach to environmental consultants, which Avangrid explained they plan to sign contracts in the next quarter. Will Waskes, BOEM, then provided an overview of the Kitty Hawk Project timeline – mentioning the 4.5-year period to submit a COP to BOEM after the SAP approval. Task force members asked questions about the interface between federal and state waters in terms of site assessment, which in most cases the state requirements will be exceeded by the BOEM requirements. Algene Byrum, BOEM NEPA Coordinator, addressed a question about NEPA analysis before and after leasing, explaining that the SAP submitted by the developer will be evaluated against the NEPA environmental assessment and a 2 nd EA will occur before approval of construction if necessary.
Steven Pietryk, Dominion Energy, and Myles Daniel, Orsted, presented on the VA Commercial and Research Leases. The commercial lease held by Dominion Energy SAP was recently approved on October 12th initiating the 4.5-year COP submittal deadline. Dominion Energy and Orsted announced a partnership for developing the research lease to VA DMME in July. The team is addressing restrictions and compliance issues including the sea turtle nesting season and RAP approval conditions. Dominion also proposed project modifications – planning to use a 6MW turbine with option for power boost and a monopile foundation. The next steps for the project is to submit a RAP amendment, update or obtain additional permits, UXO surveys, and draft a facility design report. The commercial operation date target is 2020. Starting the 4.5- year assessment Dominion plans to deploy a met buoy early next year. Casey Reeves, BOEM, highlighted the continuation of stakeholder outreach and data gathering during this transparent review process. Dan O’Connell, BOEM, presented the technical modifications review, focusing on foundations, scour, sand wave hazard and mitigation, and design standards. Algene Byrum, BOEM NEPA Coordinator, discussed the RAP modification review. The evaluation of revisions to RAP requires determining if the proposed activities are authorized under the existing proposal. Bob Matthias provided an update from the Virginia Offshore Wind Development Authority (VOWDA). VOWDA is focused on supply chain initiatives with the potential for local foundation fabrication for mid-Atlantic commercial OSW market in Hampton Roads which would diversify the shipbuilding and ship repair industry. Ken Jurman and George Hagerman provided an update on research activities. A recent study by NREL on simulation of wind plant layout and control shows how turbine orientation can be adjusted to increase optimum electricity generation. The research team also addressed the need for a new reference met mast to replace the Chesapeake Light Tower.
For the first time, Mary Boatman from BOEM presented data from the Real-time Opportunity for Development Environmental Observations (RODEO) project from Block Island Wind Farm. The project goal was to collect real-time measurements during each phase of the project. RODEO offers data on air quality, sound, seafloor disturbance, scour, submarine cable installation, and visual impact. BOEM addressed action items to ensure the success of the task force. Prior to the meeting, CBI conducted a survey on behalf of BOEM to identify the challenges the task force faces. To address the challenges BOEM plans to maintain consistent contact with task forces by publishing meeting summaries and hosting 1-2 meetings per year possibly by webinar. Additionally, BOEM will invite neighboring states to task force meetings to incorporate regional perspectives. Task force members requested an outline of the post-leasing role for the task force so BOEM plans to work with the task force to identify discussion points. BOEM will work effort to enhance stakeholder outreach engagement and increase transparency of decision making by closing the loop on questions and concerns at meetings.