UPDATE: This post was updated to reflect the addition of the Bald Head Island public information meeting on October 6.
After a multi-year process of identifying where offshore wind farms might be developed off the coast of North Carolina, federal regulators have concluded that initial activities involved with site studies will have negligible environmental impacts. These findings are revealed in the revised environmental assessment (EA) released by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) last Friday.
The EA carries a “Finding of No Significant Impact,” for the actions of issuing leases for offshore wind energy areas to development companies. The actions also include companies carrying out site assessment activities, such as deploying buoys or towers to collect meteorological data. The EA does not deal with potential impacts from the actual construction or operation of wind farms on these sites. Those potential effects would be assessed later, when the company that buys the site leases submits a Construction and Operations plan for approval. This would be years down the road, though, considering that they will want to collect a significant amount of data onsite before committing to the construction of a wind farm.
The next steps for offshore wind in NC will be the issuance of a Proposed Sale Notice this fall, which will kick off a 60-day comment period on future issuance of leases in the sites identified for potential wind development.
Concurrent with the release of the EA, BOEM has issued an invitation to its North Carolina Task Force to convene to meet on October 7 to discuss the EA and BOEM’s proposed approach for an offshore wind auction. There will be a public comment portion following the official meeting, so we encourage any North Carolina residents with an interest in offshore wind energy to save the date for Wednesday, October 7 at the Coastline Conference & Event Center located on 501 Nutt Street, Wilmington, NC. There will also be a public information meeting on Tuesday, October 6, starting at 3:00 pm on Bald Head Island at the Bald Head Island Association Center, 111 Light House Wynd, Bald Head Island, NC 28461.