The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) is responsible for the development of offshore renewable energy in federal waters. While the first Gulf of Maine offshore wind lease sale is not expected until 2024, this post explores recent actions BOEM has taken to advance offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine and the agency activity we're likely to see in the year ahead.

Beginning in 2019, following a request from New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, BOEM convened a Gulf of Maine Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force to identify opportunities for leasing and development on the Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Maine. The Task Force is made up of representatives from BOEM and elected Tribal, state, and local officials from Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. The task force has met several times since 2019 and is slated to have its next meeting as early as December 2022.

In October 2021, DOI Secretary Deb Haaland announced a national offshore wind leasing strategy for 2021-2025, which includes a goal of holding a commercial lease sale the Gulf of Maine in 2024.

In 2022, BOEM took two major steps to advance offshore wind development in the Gulf of Maine, consistent with this national strategy, when it recently issued a Request for Interest and a Request for Competitive Interest. The agency is slated to act on both Requests in 2023.

Request for Interest (RFI)

The RFI is the first step in the BOEM leasing process for offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine. BOEM will soon issue a Call for Information and Nominations, engage in Wind Energy Area identification, and develop leasing documents that will ultimately result in a lease auction. In an August 2022 presentation, BOEM representatives provided the following timeline with respect to the RFI:

  • Call for Information and Nominations is slated for Q1 of 2023,
  • Identification of Wind Energy Areas is slated for Q3 of 2023.
  • The lease sale (including publication of a Proposed Sale Notice and Final Sale Notice, and holding the auction itself) is slated for Q4 of 2023 through Q3 of 2024.

Once these steps are completed and a lease is awarded, BOEM's regulatory process involves a multi-year site assessment phase followed by construction and operation.

Request for Competitive Interest (RFCI)

The RFCI is BOEM's response to a pending research application by the State of Maine, which is being considered by BOEM on a separate track from the commercial RFI process.

Maine recently submitted a research lease application for a 15.2-square-mile site in the Gulf of Maine to be home to the nation's first floating offshore wind research array. The proposed array is to be made up of no more than 12 floating turbines capable of generating up to 144 MW of renewable energy. The state proposed the floating research array because there is significant interest in commercial development in the Gulf of Maine and because it believes a research array "is the right, prudent step to take before commercial scale floating offshore wind development occurs in the Gulf of Maine."

Maine's proposed research framework for the array is based on three major foci: human dimensions, ecosystem and environment, and technology development. According to the Maine Governor's Energy Office, this research "will allow the State, the fishing industry and many others to learn about potential impacts of floating offshore wind together, in order to ensure Maine develops this industry in a manner that capitalizes on our innovative technology and abundant resources, while protecting our interests, industries, environment and values."

If competitive interest is found, then a determination on the state's application will be made using the agency's competitive leasing process. On the other hand, if no competitive interest is found, BOEM may publish that determination and undertake a suitability analysis and an environmental assessment. If these steps are satisfied, BOEM will then engage in lease negotiations for a research lease.

In an August 2022 presentation, BOEM representatives provided the following timeline with respect to the RFCI:

  • Determination of Competitive Interest is slated for Q4 of 2022.
  • Publication of a draft environmental assessment is slated for Q1-Q2 in 2023.
  • The research lease issuance and execution are slated for Q2 2023.

We'll continue to monitor these activities and other regulatory developments relating to offshore wind in the Gulf of Maine, including any changes to the BOEM timeline that may be shared at upcoming meetings of the Gulf of Maine Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force.

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