NYPA announces Great Lakes offshore wind power initiative

Big day in the U.S. offshore wind world, with important developments on the New York state and federal levels.

First, from the New York Power Authority (NYPA):

BUFFALO—In recognition of the celebration of Earth Day, New York Power Authority (NYPA) President and Chief Executive Officer Richard M. Kessel today announced a major public-private initiative for the potential development of wind power projects in the New York State waters of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario.

NYPA today released a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) to initiate efforts to develop offshore wind projects in the Great Lakes.  A Request for Proposals (RFP) to examine technical issues related to the viability of such projects is expected to be released before the end of the month.

To carry out the initiative known as the Great Lakes Offshore Wind Project, NYPA, with the support of wind power proponents including National Grid, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, state and local environmental organizations, wind power developers and the University of Buffalo, is gathering a wide range of environmental, economic development, technical, financial and other information to serve as the foundation for the possible installation of wind power projects by one or more private wind power developers, sized to a minimum of 120 megawatts…

Full press release here.

From the RFEI:

  • The New York Power Authority (“NYPA”) is seeking technical, financial, environmental and commercial information from the wind power industry and regional stakeholders to determine the prospects for the development of a utility scale wind generating project in New York State waters of Lake Erie and/or Lake Ontario.
  • Based on an evaluation of the information received pursuant to this RFEI, NYPA may elect to proceed with a Request for Proposal (“RFP”) seeking the development of a large scale wind project in one of the Lakes.
  • The RFP would be expected to result in the selection of a developer to construct, own, operate and maintain the wind project and to sell the output under a long term Power Purchase Agreement (“PPA”).

The RFEI can be accessed at www.nypa.gov/GreatLakesWindRFEI.htm.

Parties interested in responding to the RFEI should provide a Notice of Intent to Respond to NYPA on or before May 18, 2009, which includes all pertinent contact information (lead contact name, company, phone number and e-mail address). This notice is for administrative purposes only and is not mandatory.

Responses to this RFEI should be sent to the following no later than June 15, 2009:  Mr. Jordan Brandeis Vice President – Power Resources, Planning and Acquisition New York Power Authority 123 Main Street White Plains, NY 10601.

If you intend to respond and require assistance, please contact Clifford Rohde at 518-641-1005 or cliff@cliffordrohde.com.

Second, the feds. Only a few short weeks after burying the hatchet with FERC, the Department of the Interior’s Minerals Management Service released a long-anticipated framework for offshore energy development. The final rules will go into effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

MMS press release here.

Final rules (all 579 pages) here.

The two issues are intertwined, as noted by our friends at the Great Lakes Wind Collaborative:

For the Great Lakes, these rules may have implications as the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Coast Guard are currently drafting offshore wind development rules and guidelines for the Great Lakes. The agencies may, in part, model the Great Lakes rules off this framework. To find out more about the Great Lakes offshore wind development status, be sure to attend the Great Lakes Wind Collaborative’s 2nd Annual Meeting June 10-11 in Milwaukee where the Corps and the Coast Guard will be presenting a briefing on where the framework/rulemaking stands for the Great Lakes. For more information and to register for this informative meeting, go to http://www.glc.org/energy/wind/conf2009.html.

FERC dismisses Grays Harbor offshore permit applications

Late last year Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company, LLC (Grays Harbor) filed applications with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to study the feasibility of hydrokinetic power projects (which also included a wind component) located in the Atlantic Ocean about 12 to 25 miles offshore off the coasts of New York (and Massachusetts and Rhode Island) and in the Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Hawaii and California.

Earlier this month, FERC and the Department of the Interior signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to clarify jurisdictional responsibilities for renewable energy projects in offshore waters on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) so as to create a cohesive, streamlined process to encourage the development of wind, solar, and hydrokinetic energy projects.

In the MOU, FERC agreed to not issue preliminary permits for hydrokinetic projects that would be located on the OCS. In light of the MOU, FERC dismissed Grays Harbor’s applications.

Offshore zoning proposal

From the New York Times’ Greenwire blog (4/11):

Congress should create an ocean zoning system to protect marine resources from expanded offshore energy development, according to Duke University researchers.

The article references a policy piece in the April 10, 2009 edition of Science magazine by Mary Turnipseed et al from the Duke University Marine Lab (article summary here).

The Science article, “Legal Bedrock for Rebuilding America’s Ocean Ecosystems,” proposes the extension of the “public trust” doctrine to coastal waters for the purpose of regulating offshore development in the 3.6 million million nautical square miles of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) (which extends from the boundaries of states’ waters to 200 nautical miles offshore).

The article states

A federal public trust doctrine, if formally extended from state waters to the outer edges of the EEZ, would identify federal agencies as having responsibility for marine resources as trustees of the U.S. ocean public trust and U.S. citizens [current and future] as the sole beneficiaries.

The authors point out that more than 20 federal agencies currently regulate the area without any “systematic effort to coordinate their actions for the public good.” While the article notes that many analysts assume that the public trust doctrine extends to the EEZ, its authors posit that a formal declaration, either by executive order, Congressional mandate (legislation), or federal judicial interpretation, would definitively establish the doctrine in the EEZ.

The Greenwire article notes that New York is “in the process of drafting … comprehensive plans for managing state waters.” Indeed, a draft plan, prepared by the Department of State and other interested agencies comprising the New York Ocean and Great Lakes Ecosystem Conservation Council, was submitted April 6 to Governor Paterson and the state legislature.  With respect to energy development, the report, “Our Waters, Our Communities,  Our Future,” indicates:

Energy: Developing Ecosystem Approaches to Meet Critical Energy Needs

Achieve renewable, sustainable, and efficient energy production and transmission in a manner that is consistent with place‐based ecosystem goals for coastal areas, promotes community well‐being, is adaptive, and engages stakeholders.

No current issue may be more urgent and overarching than increasing energy demands and the search for new, alternative sources of energy. New York’s economic health is closely tied to its ability to meet its energy needs; the State is the fourth largest energy user in the U.S., but only 13% of the total primary energy requirements are met from in‐State resources. Governor Paterson has committed to the dual goals of reducing electric energy demand 15% by 2015 and having renewable sources provide 30% of the State’s electrical power by 2015 (known as “45 by 15”).

At the same time that demand for more renewable energy sources is growing, New York’s existing generation facilities are aging. These two factors will increase the need to site new facilities and will stimulate increased public scrutiny on the siting pro[c]ess. Many types of energy facilities could capitalize on New York’s abundant renewable resources, such as turbines that capture wind power or anaerobic digesters that convert manure to electricity. Each has the potential to impact land and offshore uses and natural resources in New York’s ocean and coasts, while also having the potential to deliver more localized sources of power and enhance economic opportunities.

The Council agencies should work in partnership with New York’s Energy Planning Board, the Renewable Energy Task Force and a broad diversity of stakeholders to encourage energy conservation and development program that will meet community energy needs, align with the local and regional economic development, conservation, and land use plans, and protect ecosystem integrity. [p.45]

Meanwhile, the Department of the Interior and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released April 9 their memorandum of understanding regarding the regulation of offshore energy projects,

in order to develop a cohesive, streamlined process that would help accelerate the development of wind, solar, and hydrokinetic (i.e.,  wave, tidal and ocean current) energy projects.

See OREC summary here.