Offshore Wind Cables Concern Fishermen

by Laurie Schreiber

NEWPORT, R.I.—The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is moving through its leasing process for offshore wind projects in federal waters.

That raised concerns among members of the New England Fishery Management Council (NEFMC) regarding siting of turbines and of undersea cables connecting the projects to shore.

BOEM marine biologist Brian Hooker presented an update on leasing and environmental studies at NEFMC’s Dec. 5 meeting. He said BOEM has had seven competitive lease sales for 13 leases, with two more lease auctions anticipated in Massachusetts.

“We’ve moved mostly through the leasing process,” Hooker said. BOEM has approved three site assessment plans, and anticipates receiving its first construction and operations plan in 2018, he said.


The North Atlantic EEZ has high value wind resources.
The recent push for oil and gas exploration is adding spacial pressure.

Projects include:

In the Gulf of Maine, an Emera Atlantic Link transmission cable grant application was received. Next step is a call for information to determine competitive interest in lease blocks.

Vineyard Wind: Surveys are ongoing, and BOEM anticipates soon approving a site assessment plan (SAP), and a construction and operations plan (COP) also soon anticipated.

Bay State Wind: Surveys are ongoing, SAP approved, COP anticipated late 2018.

South Fork Wind Farm: Surveys ongoing, SAP nearly complete, COP anticipated 2018.

The above projects are driven in large part by a request for proposals from the state of Massachusetts to meet its renewable energy target, Hooker said.

BOEM has two potential lease areas in Massachusetts that were unleased in the last auction.

Other projects include:

Empire Wind (Statoil). Early planning is under way, an SAP survey plan was submitted in November and is under review.

• BOEM is looking at second-round leasing in the New York Bight, anticipated in early 2018.

New Jersey North (USWind). SAP anticipated March 2018.

Further south, off New Jersey:

Ocean Wind NJ SAP surveys completed, SAP submitted in September and currently under final review. COP anticipated late 2020.

Skipjack Wind Farm, off Delaware Bay. SAP term ends December 2019.

US Wind MD. SAP nearly complete, expected 2018.

Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project (demonstration scale). Construction of two turbines is anticipated in 2020.

Virginia Commercial Lease has a SAP under review with buoy deployment anticipated in 2019.

Commercial Lease OCS-A 0508 (aka Kitty Hawk), in North Carolina, was executed to AvangridRenewables on Oct. 10, 2017.

NEFMC member Terry Alexander wanted to know the status of the Emera project.


“We lease down to
1/16 of a 3-nautical-mile block. That’s the smallest unit
that we lease for the
cable (corridor).”

– Brian Hooker, BOEM


“Everyone is trying to get their permits in place,” said Hooker. “So if they win the RFP from Massachusetts, they’ll be able to act on those permits. Our first step is finding out if there’s anyone else interested in those lease spots for a right-of-way….Assuming they get the right-of-way grant, they’d still have to get a contract from the state of Massachusetts to sell the energy to be able to pursue the project further.”

NEFMC member Vincent Balzano wanted to know when BOEM would decide on the cable route.

“It’s in process,” said Hooker. “We wouldn’t make a decision until after finding out if there’s competitive interest in the area. That tells us which path we have to go through.”

“How wide is the area around those blocks?” Balzano asked. “You have a long, narrow cable. How much on either side of that cable do you lease?”

“We lease down to the aliquot level, which is 1/16 of a 3-nautical-mile block,” responded Hooker. “That’s the smallest unit that we lease. It’s a corridor that we would lease for the cable. Even though the cable wouldn’t disturb that much area in and of itself, we lease the corridor.”

“So it’s 1/6 of a 3-nautical-mile block width the entire length?” asked Balzano.

“It might be a few aliquots, depending on turns,” said Hooker.

NEFMC member Rick Bellavance wanted to know when NEFMC could get more information regarding cable routes in the different lease areas.

“Right now, each developer is responsible for their own route to shore,” said Hooker, who added that those corridors are included in the construction and operation plans. “Some developers are working with the state and others to try to find common corridors to reduce the amount of export cable lines going to shore. But at this point, that’s up to the developer to submit to us.”

NEFMC member Peter Kendall asked if the cables will be underground or lying on t op of the seabed. He also asked if BOEM has an economic impact analysis of the corridors.

Hooker said the cables will be buried where practicable. “There might be some instances where the cable needs to cross another cable, and often it will go over an existing cable, or you get into a substrate where you can’t easily go through a hard rock area and alternative mitigation will be necessary,” Hooker said. “In those cases, regarding socio-economic impact, yes, we look at the entire project, including the offshore wind turbine site and the cable corridor.”

NEFMC member David Pierce wanted to know to what extent the Northeast Ocean Data Portal influences call areas off of New York. The portal is an information resource and decision support tool for ocean planning, management, and decision making from Long Island Sound to the Gulf of Maine.

“What we’re doing with proposed call areas off New York is evaluating the information that’s there,” responded Hooker. “We’ve identified potential conflicts from the portal and any other sources, and we’re asking for comments on that. The primary drivers for the draft call area, as it exists currently, is primarily the depth and transit corridors for shipping.”

BOEM is also holding public hearings to get input on the 2019–2024 National OCS Oil and Gas Leasing Draft Proposal, which would make more than 98% of the Outer Continental Shelf available to consider for oil and gas leasing.

In Maine, the hearing is scheduled for Jan. 22, 3-7 p.m., at the Augusta Civic Center.

According to a Jan. 4 U.S. Department of the Interior press release, the plan proposes to make over 90% of the total OCS acreage and more than 98% of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in federal offshore areas available to consider for future exploration and development. By comparison, the current program puts 94% of the OCS off limits.

In the Atlantic, the plan’s proposed nine lease sales include three each for the Mid- and South Atlantic, two for the North Atlantic, and one for the Straits of Florida. There have been no sales in the Atlantic since 1983 and there are no existing leases.