BOCA RATON, Fla. (March 10, 2014) – FAU’s SNMREC recently conducted the first at-sea tests of its ocean current research turbine offshore Fort Pierce. Two, one-hour tow tests provided researchers with new data on the turbine’s behavior for further design, development and validation.
While the well-known benefits of renewable energy justify public investment in research and development, it is important that all such activities occur within a framework of environmental stewardship. To this end numerous regulatory agencies at the local, state, and national levels require that appropriate environmental assessments and/or impact statement studies be conducted prior to their granting permits for offshore activities and for such matters as connecting new generating devices to the shore-side electrical grid.
While these various agencies all have significant experience with permitting for traditional forms of energy (and, offshore, this means generally oil-and-gas development), marine renewable energy is new. Environmental stewardship for marine renewable energy, being somewhat different from that for oil and gas, therefore requires new approach.
Major Regulatory Projects
In the process of acquiring the permits needed for its offshore activities, SNMREC is working with its cognizant agencies to develop appropriate protocols for marine renewable energy permitting more generally. In this way, marine renewable energy developers in the future will have in place requirements appropriate for their activities. Thus far, the SNMREC has submitted an application for a lease on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) of the U.S. to deploy a small scale ocean current turbine test berth and an experimental research turbine. The application was submitted under the former Minerals Management Service (now the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in the U.S. Department of the Interior) Interim Policy (IP) lease program. The program allowed for research activities related to offshore marine renewables to be conducted while the final rule was being completed. The available lease term is up to five years, and the SNMREC has requested to lease three 3 mi. x 3 mi. "blocks" offshore Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. The lease application was publicly released by BOEM earlier this year:
In addition, in order to fulfill National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) requirements, BOEM had prepared a Environmental Assessment (EA) for our proposed project activities. The document was in DRAFT form and public comments were solicited by BOEM during a 30 day comment period:
After public and other agency comments were received, BOEM reviewied them and issued a revised final Assessment. This was accompanied by a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) which helps to guide lease negotiations presently underway. Additional guidelines have recently been made available which will be incorporated into project planning and the final lease.
During September of 2013, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (the state of Florida's lead coastal managment agency) notified BOEM that the EA is "consistent to the maximum extent practicable with the provisions of the Florida Coastal Management Program."
For more information about this and other Florida OCS marine renewable energy projects, visit the BOEM website.
Other Regulatory Work
The following additional consultations and permissions are sought for our offshore activities:
- U.S. Coast Guard Private Aids to Navigation
- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Authorization for Activities under Nationwide Permit 5
- U.S. Federal Communication Commission Ship Radio Station License
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Clean Air Act Permit Determination
For more information about this process, or any of our regulatory requirements, please contact our Associate Director.