The Bureau of Ocean Management, at least to hear its own officials tell it, plays a valuable role in determining where wind turbines will be placed in the ocean in an “environmentally and economically responsible way.” As things stand now, bureau workers face a busy few years — the government plans to erect hundreds of wind turbines offshore.
The BOEM is an outgrowth of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, often referred to as the EPAct. Championed by President George W. Bush, the law contained a blueprint for producing energy, particularly that which is clean and renewable, in the United States, thus reducing our dependency on imported oil and gas.
For example, the EPAct provides loan guarantees for entities that develop or use innovative technologies that avoid the by-production of greenhouse gases. Another provision of the EPAct increases the amount of biofuel that must be mixed with gasoline sold in the U.S.
In 2009, the Department of the Interior announced the final regulations for the Outer Continental Shelf Renewable Energy Program, which was authorized by EPAct. These regulations provide a framework for issuing leases, easements, and rights-of-way for OCS activities that support production and transmission of energy from sources other than oil and natural gas.
The BOEM was created to oversee offshore renewable energy development in federal waters. Because the BOEM director answers to the Secretary of the Interior, there are concerns in some quarters that political pressure may be applied to champion some projects over others.
Dr. Walter Cruickshank is the acting director of BOEM, appointed by the Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke. The director is supported by senior executives who manage national programs.
Zinke recently made headlines when he declared that there would be no oil drills placed off the coast of Florida, a decision that was widely deemed as political. President Trump carried Florida in the election and Florida’s Governor Rick Scott supported him.
Cruickshank was non-committal when asked if Zinke’s statement compromised the process.
In addition to Offshore Wind Energy and domestic oil, BOEM has identified a number of other energy sources the government intends to promote, including ocean wave energy and ocean current energy. Ocean currents contain an enormous amount of energy that can be captured and converted to a usable form. Some of the ocean currents on the OCS Renewable Energy program are the Gulf Stream, Florida Straits Current, and California Current. Submerged water turbines, similar to wind turbines, may be deployed by the OCS in the coming years to extract energy from ocean currents.
The meeting in Montauk on July 11 (see accompanying story) was part of a four-step process that will result in the construction of wind turbines off the coasts of Long Island, New Jersey, or both. At least 800 turbines are planned.
The planning and analysis process, underway now, will identify where to site the wind farms; the lease process will commence after that and can be either competitive (more than one suitor) or assigned.
The lessee will then be responsible for submitting a site assessment plan that must be approved by BOEM before the final stage: construction.