On April 21, 2010, the U.S. Department of the Interior (“Interior” or “DOI”) issued the nation’s first Request for Interest for the development of renewable energy projects on the Outer Continental Shelf.  The Request for Interest covers federal waters in between the shipping routes of the Delaware Bay off the coast of Delaware. 

In April 2009, Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, and President Obama announced the framework for developing renewable energy projects for the Outer Continental Shelf (see May 1, 2009 edition of the WER).  The new program is administered by the Minerals Management Service (“MMS”), which grants leases, easements, and rights-of-way for renewable energy development. 

The offshore leasing process also requires involvement from the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Coast Guard, MMS, and other intergovernmental agencies, tribes, and state officials as part of the Delaware Outer Continental Shelf Renewable Energy Task Force.   The task force selected the land to be included in the Request for Interest which is 7.5 miles east of Rehoboth Beach in Delaware.  In addition to state task forces, MMS has also developed alternative wind energy consortiums with East Coast states interested in creating more offshore wind farms. 

The Request for Interest is the first step toward leasing federal land on the Outer Continental Shelf for energy development.  It is open to developers and all interested and affected parties, and DOI requested comments that will aid in identifying issues related to commercial wind leases, including environmental concerns. 

The state of Delaware has already approved Bluewater Wind Delaware, LLC’s proposal to build a new 200 MW plant to serve Delmarva, the state’s largest utility.  However, Bluewater Wind Delaware, LLC is still required to apply with MMS for an offshore lease.  This may force Bluewater Wind Delaware, LLC to compete with other companies if there is enough interest generated.  However, if other companies do not show interest, then a non-competitive leasing process will be used.

Additional information is available at: http://www.doi.gov/news/pressreleases/Interior-Initiates-Leasing-Process-for-Commercial-Wind-Development-on-US-Outer-Continental-Shelf-off-Delaware.cfm.