Atwell Supports Offshore Wind Developers Throughout Complex Processes

The offshore wind industry in the United States has seen a boom in interested parties since around 2015, and that interest has steadily grown since President Biden’s 30 GW by 2030 initiative as well as the passing of the Inflation Reduction Act. The race is on to acquire lease areas on the continental shelf, complete the site assessment process, communicate effectively with essential stakeholders, and begin construction. Fortunately for Atwell, our Environmental team is already three years into supporting sizable offshore wind development in the Atlantic Ocean and beyond.

“Generally speaking, these projects can take a decade or more to develop and they can cost billions of dollars to assess, permit, and construct, depending on the project size and the scale,” said Andrew DeWitt, Director of Atwell’s Environmental team. “What Atwell is doing right now is a small piece of the big picture, but it is a significant piece as we work through supporting stakeholder engagement, survey plan development, and site assessment plan, or SAP, preparation.”

Atwell has been working with an offshore wind client and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) on the permitting and development of an offshore wind facility for more than three years, and they still have several significant milestones to reach. Atwell initially supported its client in conducting assessments to determine the viability and potential risks associated with pursuing lease areas for offshore wind development. After the client was awarded the offshore lease through a competitive auction facilitated by BOEM, Atwell continued to provide support by laying the groundwork for communication among agencies involved in development, fisheries stakeholders, and Native American Tribes. Atwell has also supported the development of the BOEM-required buoy survey plan and a site assessment plan.

Katy Reminga, Associate Project Manager at Atwell, shared, “Lease stipulations required us to draft a series of communications plans, the first being an Agency Communication Plan. It details our client’s procedure and plan for engaging with all the relevant agencies involved in permitting and development on the outer continental shelf. We have also drafted a Fisheries Communication Plan, and this plan outlines our process for communicating with individuals involved in the commercial or recreational fishing industries and other tourism-related fishing groups. We’ve also supported the development of a Native American Tribes Communication Plan.”

As the project moved into the next phase of work, Atwell has helped plan and coordinate surveying of the underwater landscape within the lease area. The project team and their survey contractors will search the seafloor for resources to assess possible impacts on underwater habitats, water quality, and cultural resources. Following that, and based on survey results and other information, the client will identify locations to deploy metocean buoys in the water for further research on the wind, wave, and other conditions in the lease area.

With all these moving parts, Atwell has the ability to act as program manager for large-scale and multifaceted development projects. Atwell’s network of connections and subcontractors allows us to walk alongside our client and serve as advisors during discussions of scope, while providing technical feedback and context throughout the process.

Atwell presents a competitive edge in the race to wind development that cannot be understated. As DeWitt and the environmental team have grown, so too has our ability to predict and help prevent challenges in the development of offshore wind projects for our clients. As companies move to diversify their portfolios and take advantage of the renewable energy push, we have the experience and expertise to guide clients along a new frontier from the stakeholder, permitting, and reporting perspectives.

Now, DeWitt and his team are at a crucial turning point in their current project. “When the client is done with the initial high-level surveys, the SAP is submitted and approved, and the buoys are deployed, data will continue to be collected, and assessments will be conducted to support the development of the Construction and Operations Plan, or COP. Once the COP is finalized, it goes to BOEM for their review. BOEM will then conduct an Environmental Impact Statement and continue to gather feedback from stakeholders to inform their decision to approve, approve with modifications, or deny the project.”

Through constant and open communication with clients and stakeholders, and the commitment to incorporate the invaluable feedback received, Atwell continuously aims to hit the mark so clients can keep moving forward. Maintaining high-quality reporting and hitting key milestones is essential to what the Environmental team does.

“It’s very beneficial to have a central group that is supporting the management of all the moving pieces of a project of this scale. We’re held to very rigorous and specific requirements by the federal government, and we work tirelessly to ensure we don’t miss a single important milestone that may have the potential to impede the project’s progression. Working as an extension of our clients, it is our job to ensure the project is moving along from a permitting and reporting standpoint so the developer can focus on other elements,” said Reminga.

That is the Atwell difference, after all. Our clients approach us with large-scale, long-term projects and know that it will not only be completed on time, but that the requirements of doing so will be met with the highest standards. Additionally, our expansive and consistently growing network of offices and team members provide us with the expertise needed to be leaders in our markets and make the mark our clients want to see.

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