US plans 122,000-acre wind farm offshore North Carolina

The administration of President Barack Obama on its final days is pushing a comprehensive Climate Action Plan, including expansion of wind and solar energy programmes, to develop domestic clean energy resources and cut carbon pollution, creating new American jobs.

US secretary of the interior Sally Jewell and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) acting director Walter Cruickshank on Tuesday announced that 122,405 acres offshore Kitty Hawk, North Carolina will be offered in a commercial wind lease sale on 16 March 2017.

''Today's announcement demonstrates how our collaborative efforts with federal, state and local partners over the past eight years have built a foundation to harness the enormous potential of offshore wind energy,'' said Secretary Jewell. ''The lease sale underscores the growing market demand for renewable energy and strong industry interest in meeting that demand.''

The Kitty Hawk lease sale is the latest effort in the Obama Administration's renewable energy programme at the US Department of the Interior, which recently marked the operational launch of the nation's first offshore wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island, and the lease sale for over 79,000 acres offshore New York. To date, BOEM has held six competitive lease sales, which have generated over $58 million in high bids for more than one million acres in federal waters.

The Kitty Hawk lease area begins about 24 nautical miles from shore and extends 25.7 nautical miles in a general southeast direction. Its seaward extent ranges from 13.5 nautical miles in the north to 0.6 of a nautical mile in the south. A map of the lease area can be found here.

''This is a significant milestone for North Carolina and our country as we continue to make progress on diversifying our nation's energy portfolio,'' said acting director Cruickshank. ''BOEM looks forward to overseeing a successful lease sale in March, to contribute to the region's energy supply and assist local governments in achieving their goals for energy independence and job creation.''

BOEM has identified nine companies that have legally, technically and financially qualified to participate in the upcoming lease sale. These include: Avangrid Renewables, LLC, Enbridge Holdings (Green Energy) LLC, Shell WindEnergy Inc,

Northland Power America Inc, Wind Future LLC, Outer Banks Ocean Energy, LLC, PNE Wind USA, Inc, Statoil Wind US LLC and offshore Alpha LLC.

The final sale notice contains relevant information, such as deadlines and milestones for bidders, the area available for leasing, lease provisions and conditions, auction details, criteria for evaluating bids, award procedures and lease execution.

Under the terms of the final sale notice, which will be published in the Federal Register on 19 January, the lease area will be auctioned as lease OCS-A 0508.

In September 2015, BOEM published a revised environmental assessment (EA) for commercial wind lease issuance and related activities within the three North Carolina Wind Energy Areas (WEA) (ie, Kitty Hawk WEA, Wilmington East WEA, and Wilmington West WEA) offshore North Carolina.

The EA considers reasonably foreseeable environmental and socioeconomic impacts from issuing a renewable energy lease and conducting site characterization (eg, surveys) and assessment (eg, installation and operation of meteorological towers and buoys) activities in the designated offshore area.

As a result of the analysis in the revised EA, BOEM issued a Finding of No Significant Impact, which concluded that reasonably foreseeable environmental effects associated with the issuance of commercial wind leases and related activities would not significantly impact the environment.

The Wilmington East and Wilmington West WEAs, due to their proximity and shared attributes, have been coupled with the planning and leasing process for the South Carolina Call Areas.