Offshore Renewable Energy in New Hampshire

Earlier this year, New Hampshire joined the rest of coastal New England in exploring offshore wind development when Governor Sununu requested the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to establish “an intergovernmental offshore renewable energy task force for the State of New Hampshire.” New Hampshire has jurisdiction over ocean waters within three international nautical miles from shore. But federal waters, also known as the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), extend from three international nautical miles out to international waters. The letter to the BOEM, and the ensuing task force may ultimately lead to the designation of areas for offshore renewable energy development greater than three miles off the New Hampshire coast.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 granted the U.S. Secretary of the Interior the authority to regulate renewable energy projects on the OCS. The statute also provided the BOEM with guidance on the process it should follow to authorize renewable energy projects. One important initial step in that framework is consultation with state and local governments via the task force. The task force will dictate how the BOEM’s established leasing processes will be implemented for offshore renewable energy projects off the New Hampshire coast. The ultimate goal of the task force is to identify areas where offshore energy production would be feasible. This would lead to public leasing auctions, in which companies interested in building offshore renewable energy in New Hampshire would be able to lease those areas designated by the task force. One important note is that this process is not limited to offshore wind energy. Although only companies interested in building offshore wind capacity have leased areas in other states, BOEM also has the authority to issue leases for marine and hydrokinetic projects, such as wave, tidal, and ocean current energy projects.

The BOEM has already partnered with other states, notably Massachusetts and New York, to lease areas off those other states’ coastlines, and this experience will surely provide a springboard for leasing and development off New Hampshire. At the same time, however, the role that state and local regulations play in the New Hampshire process may differ from those other states due to differences in environmental permitting. Therefore, it will be important for New Hampshire businesses familiar with state and local regulations to be involved in the task force.

About the Author: Nat Morse


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