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The U.S. Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has announced that it will hold competitive lease sales for renewable energy development in two wind energy areas (WEAs) in federal waters.

The lease sales, which will be held next year, will be the first-ever competitive sales on the Outer Continental Shelf for wind energy. These lease sales cover two WEAs along the Atlantic coast that have high wind resource potential: One area is offshore Virginia, and the other area is of mutual interest offshore Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

The two areas proposed for leasing, which together total 277,550 acres, are expected to be able to support more than 4 GW of wind energy generation, BOEM says.

The proposed lease area offshore Virginia will be auctioned as a single lease and totals about 112,800 acres located about 23.5 nautical miles off the southern part of the state’s coast. It is expected to support more than 2 GW of wind energy generation.

The area of mutual interest proposed for leasing offshore Rhode Island and Massachusetts covers approximately 164,750 acres and is located about 9.2 nautical miles south of the Rhode Island coastline.

The area will be auctioned as two leases, referred to as the North Zone and South Zone. The North Zone lease will consist of about 97,500 acres and has the capacity to support more than 1 GW of wind power generation, and the South Zone lease will consist of about 67,250 acres and is capable of supporting between 350 MW and 1 GW.

BOEM identified the WEAs in conjunction with renewable energy task forces, which included federal, state, local and tribal government partners. BOEM has conducted environmental assessments to analyze the potential effects associated with issuing leases in these WEAs. In addition, BOEM will conduct a comprehensive, site-specific National Environmental Policy Act review, including opportunities for public comment, for the construction of any proposed wind power facility.

The 60-day comment period for the notices ends Feb. 1, 2013. BOEM will host a public seminar for each WEA during the comment period to introduce potential stakeholders to the auction format, explain the auction rules and demonstrate the auction process through examples.


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