The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) last week announced it would take the first step toward issuing the nation’s first lease that would authorize the testing of equipment designed by Florida Atlantic University to use ocean currents offshore Florida to generate power on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

The university had applied for a lease to deploy an experimental demonstration device, prompting BOEMRE to conduct an Environmental Assessment. The proposed lease area covers three OCS blocks located approximately 9 to 15 nautical miles offshore Fort Lauderdale.

“This is the first lease application BOEMRE has received to test ocean current equipment on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf,” said BOEMRE Director Michael R. Bromwich. “Before a leasing decision is made, we are preparing an environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act and are providing an opportunity for public input concerning these activities.”

The environmental assessment will consider environmental impacts that may result from installing a buoy, deploying small-scale ocean current devices, and operating a deployment vessel in the area that would be covered by the lease. The EA will also consider environmental issues, including impacts to benthic habitats, marine mammals, sea turtles, pelagic fishes, and existing human uses.

A Request for Information published in November 2007 announced that BOEMRE had established an interim policy under which it would issue limited leases authorizing renewable energy resource assessment, data collection, and technology testing activities on the OCS and that it was accepting nominations for limited leases to conduct these activities. Limited leases have a term of five years and do not authorize the commercial production or transmission of energy.

BOEMRE said it had received more than 40 nominations proposing areas for limited leases on the OCS off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, and identified 16 proposed lease areas for priority consideration based on the technological complexity of the project proposed, timing needs, competing OCS space-use issues, and relevant state-supported renewable energy activities and initiatives. BOEMRE said it also considered the importance of supporting the advancement of activities related to developing wind, current, and wave energy.

Of the 16 areas, BOEMRE identified four proposed areas offshore Florida as priority areas for testing ocean current technology and collecting resource data. “In April 2008, BOEMRE solicited expressions of competitive interest in leasing any of these nominated areas and received no indications of competitive interest in acquiring leases within these four areas offshore Florida, which include the three blocks of interest to Florida Atlantic University,” the agency said.

Sources: POWERnews, BOEMRE