Right now, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is soliciting comments from the public on “aspects of BOEM’s renewable energy program that stakeholders have found to be successful, and those program areas where there appear to be opportunities for improvement.” Click here to sign a letter that Ocean Conservancy is submitting to BOEM requesting them to make ocean planning a fundamental part of the way BOEM plans offshore.
Bringing together relevant data and information through a scientific and stakeholder driven process has proven beneficial for the offshore wind industry. Through the ocean planning process, the offshore wind industry is given the opportunity to collaborate with a wide range of stakeholders from conservation, fishing, to recreation, shipping and more to produce mutually beneficial results for all. Three examples of benefits ocean planning can bring to the offshore wind industry include:
1. Bringing collaboration and communication to the forefront of project development.
Ocean planning brings diverse groups of interested parties together and enables an open dialogue among the public, industry sectors, and government agencies. Placement of wind turbines offshore can be an important topic of conversation not only for optimal wind generation capabilities, but also for those that live and work in the areas where offshore turbines will be constructed. Through collaborative ocean planning, community and industry representatives can come together and identify areas of concern, and work together with the wind developer at the same table. For example, in Rhode Island, the planning process enabled commercial fishermen to indicate areas where turbines and fishing grounds overlapped, and through this collaboration, Deepwater Wind (developer of the Block Island demonstration project) modified their turbine placements through consultation with their engineering firm producing mutually beneficial results.
2. Increasing understanding of marine ecosystem to inform project placement.
Ocean planning is a data-driven, scientific process that works to combine existing and new research into a framework for effective decision-making. Scientists at leading universities are undertaking important research efforts to better understand the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic marine environment. As part of the regional ocean planning processes from Virginia to Maine, researchers have compiled thousands of layers of critical data and are working now to identify areas important for biological diversity. Offshore wind developers in this region will now have access to cutting edge biological and ecological data when determining the location of their wind farms, a unique level of marine ecosystem data that will conserve valuable habitat by ensuring wind farms are placed in appropriate places.
3. Enhancing the permitting processes by coordinating among multiple jurisdictional boundaries.
The ocean and its resources are contained within a tangled web of regulatory bodies, and offshore wind companies face multiple competing jurisdictional requirements to finalize permitting processes. Federal, state, and local governments all have some level of involvement when it comes to offshore wind development, including project siting, environmental reviews, transmission cable landings, and more. A major goal in the ocean planning process in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast is to enhance coordination to avoid delays in project development. Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski says the Rhode Island Ocean Plan helped save years of permitting delays on the Block Island project.