Tracts identified for wind power leasing off South Carolina

BRUCE SMITH, Associated Press

Tracts identified for wind power leasing off South Carolina

LITCHFIELD BEACH, S.C. (AP) — While it will be years before any wind turbines go up offshore, regulators have identified almost 1,200 nautical square miles off the South Carolina coast that have the potential to be leased for the development of wind energy.

Officials with the federal Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management told members of the South Carolina Renewable Energy Task Force on Wednesday that they are publishing the maps in the Federal Register as the first step in seeking comment on the proposal.

"This is an initial step in a long and deliberative process," said Casey Reeves, the federal agency's South Carolina project coordinator for renewable energy.

It's the first time offshore tracts for wind energy development have been identified off South Carolina. The agency announced it will also conduct an initial environmental assessment of impacts of issuing leases.

The public comments will be used by the agency to refine the potential offshore area that could be open to wind energy development. The agency will also will collect additional data and have public meetings on the proposal.

The largest tract identified is off Myrtle Beach, an area of about 885 square nautical miles. A tract of about 200 nautical square miles is located off Cape Romain northeast of Charleston. Smaller tracts are offshore of both Charleston and Winyah Bay.

Those attending the meeting were told it could be seven years to a decade before any wind turbines might go up, what with environmental and other studies needed before leases could be awarded.

Reeves said that the decision to publish the maps in the Federal Register is not a decision to issue leases nor a final decision on what areas might be included in the areas.

Generally the tracts are no closer than 6 nautical miles from the shoreline, to avoid the high concentrations of birds that fly nearer to shore and would be endangered by turbine blades.

Areas that were not included in the potential lease areas included areas that have a lot of maritime traffic, areas that are used for Department of Defense activities and areas that have artificial reefs, the committee was told.

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