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BOEM Begins Process for Gulf of Maine Offshore Wind Lease Auctions

On April 30, 2024, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced its proposal for the first offshore wind energy auction in the Gulf of Maine. The Proposed Sale Notice (PSN) includes eight lease areas off Maine, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire totaling nearly one million acres. BOEM identified these lease areas within its Final Wind Energy Area (WEA), prioritizing avoidance of offshore fishing grounds and identification of vessel transit routes.


According to BOEM, the proposed lease sale has the potential to generate 15 GW of energy and power over 5 million homes. The region’s offshore wind energy goals are estimated at between 13 GW and 18 GW (Massachusetts and Maine: 13 GW; electricity grid operator ISO-New England: 18 GW). Based on current turbine technology, 800 to 1,000 turbines would be required to generate this power, equaling 130 to 165 turbines in each of the eight proposed lease areas. The average area of the proposed leases is approximately 120,000 acres or 187 square miles.


BOEM may consider a second round of leasing in the Gulf of Maine in 2028 under BOEM’s new five-year offshore wind leasing schedule, announced in April. The timing and scope of a second Gulf of Maine sale would be directly informed by the results of the 2024 sale as well as stakeholder engagement, market conditions, and regional energy goals.


The public is urged to submit comments on all aspects of BOEM’s Proposed Sale Notice by July 1 to provide guidance on development of the Final Sale Notice. The public is encouraged to comment on the number, size, orientation, and location of the proposed lease areas and which areas, if any, should be prioritized for inclusion or exclusion from this lease sale; potential lease stipulations regarding vessel transit and baseline environmental monitoring; existing uses and how they may be affected by the development of the proposed lease area; limits on the number of lease areas per bidder; and a possible second phase of leasing in 2028.


BOEM responded to fishing industry concerns about the need for safe transit by spacing the eight leases in a manner to create defacto transit corridors to facilitate existing and future transit through proposed lease areas. Among the six southern lease areas, BOEM has established three transit corridors occurring in a northwest-to-southeast direction, as well as in an east and west direction, with a minimum width of 2.5 nm. Where the established corridor between leases is less than 2.5 nm, BOEM proposes a lease stipulation that would prohibit surface or subsurface (i.e., floating foundations, mooring lines, anchor structures, or inter-array cables) development along specific lease borders.


For the lease areas with abutting boundaries, BOEM would require developers to design a surface structure layout that contains two common lines of orientation across the adjacent leases. If this is not possible, developers would be required to incorporate a 1 nm setback from the boundary of the adjacent lease within which surface structures are prohibited. This would create a minimum 2 nm distance between the proposed facilities of each lessee along the lease boundary.


BOEM’s plan is to conduct a simultaneous auction of all eight lease areas. Each developer could bid for and ultimately win a maximum of two leases. As proposed, a bidder could bid for and win a maximum of two South Region leases, or one North Region lease and one South Region lease. Eleven developers have qualified to participate in the lease auction thus far but developers have until July 1 to submit materials to qualify.


The auction, which may occur in late fall, would use a multiple-factor auction format — a combination of monetary and non-monetary factors. Bids open at $50/acres. Each bid is the sum of the money offered (75% cash bid), and the value of non-monetary factors in the form of bidding credits (12.5% for Workforce Training and/or Supply Chain Development and 12.5% for Fisheries Compensation Mitigation Fund).


Winning a lease at auction does not constitute approval of project-specific plans to develop floating offshore wind energy. A developer must submit plans to BOEM, which would be subject to subsequent environmental, technical, and public reviews prior to any BOEM decision.


If BOEM decides to proceed with the auction, a Final Sale Notice (FSN) would be published in the Federal Register. An environmental assessment to evaluate the potential environmental impacts associated with offshore wind leases would be completed prior to the FSN.


BOEM must receive comments no later than July 1, 2024. There are two ways to submit comments:

  • Online here (enter ‘‘BOEM–2024–0026’’ in the search box and follow instructions to submit public comments.

  • Or mail to: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Office of Renewable Energy Programs, 45600 Woodland Road, Mailstop: VAM–OREP, Sterling, VA 20166. Envelope must be labeled "Comments on Gulf of Maine Lease Sale PSN."


For more information, contact Zachary Jylkka, BOEM, Zachary.Jylkka@boem.gov or (978) 491–7732.


 

Gulf of Maine Offshore Lease Timeline


  • 08/19/2022 BOEM issued Request for Interest (RFI) on potential leasing of 13.7 million acres of the Gulf of Maine. Five developers expressed interest.

  • 04/25/2023 BOEM issued Call for Information and Nominations for Commercial Leasing for Wind Power Development on the Gulf of Maine. Seven developers nominated areas for commercial wind energy leasing.

  • 10/19/2023 BOEM announced the Draft Wind Energy Area (WEA) for the Gulf of Maine covering 3.5 million acres.

  • 03/15/2024 BOEM published the Final Wind Energy Area (WEA) for the Gulf of Maine comprising 2 million acres. The Final WEA has the potential to support generation of 32 gigawatts (GW) of energy.

  • 03/18/2024 BOEM published a notice of intent to prepare an environmental assessment (EA) to consider potential environmental impacts of site characterization activities and site assessment activities that are expected to take place after issuance of wind energy leases. This looks only at impacts of surveys (biological, archaeological, geological, and geophysical), core sampling and installation of monitoring equipment.

  • 03/18/2024 BOEM initiated other required consultations under the Endangered Species Act, the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act, and the Coastal Zone Management Act.

  • 04/24/2024 BOEM announced a new 5-year offshore wind leasing schedule. This schedule includes two anticipated Gulf of Maine sales: the first in October 2024; and the second in 2028.

  • Summer 2024 BOEM anticipates publishing the Final Environmental Assessment.

  • Summer 2024 BOEM anticipates publishing Final Sale Notice for Gulf of Maine.

  • Fall/Winter 2024 BOEM anticipates holding lease auction for Gulf of Maine.

  • 2028 BOEM may conduct a second round of leasing in the Gulf of Maine.

  • Early 2030s BOEM will conduct additional environmental reviews upon receipt of a lessee’s Construction and Operations Plan (COP) if one or more of the proposed leases reach that stage of development.

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