Statoil, PNE request US offshore leases

Activity in the US’ offshore wind sector has continued to pick up in 2017, with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) this week publishing notification of several requests for leases.

Unsolicited lease requests were made by two firms for areas off New York and Massachusetts.

PNE Wind USA, a unit of the German wind project manager, submitted a lease request for 40,920 acres (165 square km) offshore New York.

According to filings made to the BOEM, PNE’s proposed NY4-Excelsior Wind Park would be of around 300-400 MW capacity, located 28 nautical miles from the Roland Road substation.

Should the Bureau proceed with the application, it could potentially trigger a new auction for the lease, if there is deemed to be possible competition.

PNE also submitted a request for another two areas offshore Massachusetts, alongside a unit of Norwegian state energy firm Statoil. The two companies both requested previously unleased sections of the designated wind energy area: Lease area OCS-A 0502 of approximately 248,015 acres (1,000 sq km) and Lease area OCS-A 0503, of approximately 140,554 acres (570 sq km).

According to Statoil’s request, the company would seek to develop one or more commercial wind farms on the licence, with a capacity of between 400 MW and 600 MW in its first phase – presumably with further potential capacity to follow. PNE, meanwhile, filed to develop two, 400-MW schemes at locations southeast of Brayton Point power station.

In a notice to stakeholders, the BOEM stated that: “Due to the fact that both parties nominated the same area, BOEM has determined that competitive interest exists and plans to proceed with the competitive leasing process outlined in BOEM’s regulations.”

The BOEM announcement follows Statoil’s successful, US$42 million bid for the 79,000-acre (320 sq km) Lease OCS-A 0512 offshore New York in December. Multiple rounds of aggressive bidding saw the company beat a number of major developers, including Avangrid Renewables, DONG Energy, Innogy, wpd offshore and even the local favourite, government-backed power group New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

The most recent unsolicited bid only further cements Statoil’s intention to diversify from its background in oil and gas, and to use its commercial leverage to become a major player in the US’ fledgling offshore wind industry. The past few months have seen it investigate a raft of projects, including lease areas off Hawaii.

Potential auctions or lease awards may be some time away, but the US offshore project pipeline has grown exponentially over the past year, and NewsBase expects to see even fiercer competition from investors and developers in the coming months.