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Friday, January 7, 2011

What's Next: 2011 Edition, Part 1.

We are one week-- a mere seven days -- into 2011, and the U.S. offshore wind sector is already in full swing! I started drafting this post, which was intended to be a "Top 10" list of predictions for 2011, just before New Years. However, at least one of my predictions was so uncanny that it has already come to fruition!

In an effort to make these posts a little less lengthy, I am breaking the Top 10 into three parts. This post includes the first three predictions-- stay tuned for the next seven!

(1) Army Corps of Engineers Issues Final Permit and ROD for Cape Wind

After years of inaction, delay, and litigation challenges, the United States Army Corps of Engineers has issued a final permit for the Cape Wind Offshore Wind Farm. Cape Wind is set to be located in an area known as Horseshoe Shoals off the coast of Nantucket Island in federal waters off the coast of Massachusetts. The Army Corps permit was issued pursuant to the Corps' regulatory authority under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (33 U.S.C. 1344), and under Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 (33 U.S.C. 403). The permit, which was issued concurrently with the Army Corps' Record of Decision, was granted in consideration of the Final Environmental Impact Statement approved by Mineral Management Services (now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement) and subsequent to the issuance of the first-ever submerged land lease granted for an offshore renewable energy project. Under the Permit, Cape Wind must complete construction of the 130 turbine installation by 2020.

(2) BOEMRE Requests for Interest and Calls for Information

In 2009, BOEMRE issued Requests for Interest with regard to potential offshore renewable energy developments in Delaware, Maryland, and Massachusetts (in cooperation with Rhode Island). Under the Department of the Interior's new "Smart from the Start" program, I believe that we should expect to see BOEMRE RFI's issued for the waters off of Maine, New Jersey, New York, and North Carolina.

Joan Bondareff, Vice Chair of Virginia's Offshore Wind Development Authority (and of counsel in Blank Rome's Washington, DC office) offers the following prediction related to offshore wind development in Virginia:

In VA, we expect DoI to issue an RFI in January for leasing areas on the OCS off the coast of Virginia. At the newly-constituted VA Offshore Wind Development Authority, established in legislation last year and promoted by Gov. McDonnell, we are looking forward to working with companies interested in offshore wind development and building public-private partnerships to facilitate bringing these projects on-line in the future at what we hope can be competitive rates. We also welcome the DoI's Smart from the Start Initiative.

(3) Action Under 2010 New Jersey OWEDA Legislation: New BPU Regulations for OREC Program; Bids Expected Shortly Thereafter

Under the recently enacted New Jersey Offshore Wind Economic Development Act ("OWEDA"), the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (BPU) has been directed to develop and establish an offshore wind renewable energy certificate (OREC) program that calls for a percentage of electricity sold in the state-- a minimum of 1,100 megawatts-- to be from offshore wind energy. The OWEDA also offers financial incentives, including both tax credits and direct funding through the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, to businesses that build manufacturing, assemblage, and water access facilities for qualified offshore wind projects.

Under the legislation, New Jersey BPU is required to issue regulations governing the OREC program within 180 days of the legislation's enactment date-- i.e., by February 15, 2011.

Once the OREC program has been established, we should expect to see applications submitted by a number of developer entities including the Garden State Offshore Energy, Fishermen's Energy, LLC and Bluewater Wind, LLC.

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