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Auction of 480,000 Acres for Offshore Wind Begins Next Month

The New York Bight region, off of Long Island and the Jersey Shore, has six ocean lease areas and could power approximately 2 million homes. The states hope to build 16 gigawatts of offshore energy potential by 2035.

(TNS) — Some 480,000 acres of Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of New Jersey and Long Island will be auctioned to energy companies next month, in the federal government's latest push to bring 30 gigawatts of renewable wind energy production to the mid- Atlantic and Northeast regions.

The so-called New York Bight region has six ocean lease areas that stretch south from Sandy Hook and have the potential to produce between 5.6 gigawatts to 7 gigawatts of electricity, or enough to power about 2 million homes, according to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland called the action a "once-in-a-generation opportunity to fight climate change and create good-paying, union jobs in the United States."

"We are at an inflection point for domestic offshore wind energy development. We must seize this moment — and we must do it together," she said in a news release.

Together, New Jersey and New York plan to build 16 gigawatts of offshore-energy-production capacity by 2035.

Companies across the nation stand to benefit from a $109 billion in "revenue opportunity" in the offshore wind supply chain over the coming decade, according to a report prepared by offshore wind advocates.

The lease stipulations create incentives for energy companies to supply turbine components from within the United States.

Gov. Phil Murphy said New Jersey's lease areas and its future wind port in Salem County are poised to make the Garden State a leader in the nation's growing offshore wind industry.

"Offshore wind holds the tremendous promise for our future in terms of climate change, economic growth, strengthening our workforce and job creation," Murphy said in a statement. " New Jersey is already committed to creating nearly one-quarter of the nation's offshore wind-generation market, and these transformative projects are proof that climate action can drive investments in infrastructure and manufacturing, while creating good-paying, union jobs."

While wind turbines in New Jersey's previously planned lease areas will be visible on clear days from Long Beach Island and Atlantic City, it was not immediately clear if any of the proposed wind turbines within the New York Bight region also would be visible.

Some fishing industry advocates worry about less visible impacts from the turbines. The Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA), a coalition of fishing associations and companies, said the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has so far failed to protect their industry from the impacts of offshore wind or addressed their concerns.

"The frequency of BOEM's announcements on advancing individual offshore wind projects is staggering and far outpaces the time needed to conduct intentional environmental review," said Anne Hawkins, executive director of RODA. "Yet the agency has still only involved fisheries experts through superficial notice and comment, which hasn't led to resolving conflicts especially since fishermen are affected by multiple projects."

The federal agency is holding a stakeholders meeting with members of the fisheries community on Jan. 19. But Hawkins said thus far, the agency has only conducted "token outreach" meetings with members of her community. The cumulative impacts on the environment and coastal communities have not yet been addressed by BOEM, she said.

"We desperately need a programmatic, inclusive approach to meet the twin goals of seafood sustainability and renewable energy," Hawkins said in a statement. "The N.Y. Bight is a hugely conflicted area and issuing new leases before putting processes in place to mitigate the clear risks this scale of development poses to historic food production and ecological resilience will result in devastating impacts that would have been largely avoidable with careful planning."

The environmental organization Clean Ocean Action also was critical of the New York Bight lease announcement, saying the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management was proceeding to industrialize the ocean "without caution for marine life."

The wind turbines would be built along a migration route of the North Atlantic Right whale, an endangered species estimated to have fewer than 350 animals left.

Last month, New Jersey's offshore wind developers agreed to help fund ocean research on marine life, paying $10,000 per megawatt of capacity to help New Jersey scientists better understand the impact of wind farms on the Atlantic Ocean's ecosystem. The state's Research Monitoring Initiative will direct a total of $26 million from the power companies toward the study of wind turbines' impacts on ocean wildlife and commercial fisheries, according to state officials.

Clean Ocean Action urged BOEM to review such data and study pilot areas of wind turbines before New York Bight is fully developed.

In a statement Wednesday, officials at the environmental organization said: "Pilot-scale projects will help resolve the uncertainty that remains about the marine impacts of offshore wind, thereby ensuring that the very ecosystem which has buffered the impacts of climate change is not destroyed, and that the very soul of this region's economy, the clean ocean economy, continues to have the support it needs to thrive."


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