How are decisions made about offshore wind energy?

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is responsible for offshore renewable energy development in Federal waters. The program began in 2009 when the Department of the Interior announced the final regulations for the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Renewable Energy Program, which was authorized by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPAct). These regulations provide a framework for all activities needed to support the production and transmission of energy from sources other than oil and natural gas. Under EPAct, BOEM must ensure that projects are developed in environmentally responsible ways and consider other uses of the OCS. BOEM must also coordinate with relevant federal agencies as well as state and local governments (learn more about BOEM’s regulatory framework here).

BOEM Guidance Documents


In 2016, BOEM published A Citizen’s Guide to the organization’s renewable energy authorization process. The guide is intended to help the public understand BOEM’s process for overseeing renewable energy projects on the OCS and to highlight opportunities for public involvement. 

Guidelines for providing information on fisheries for renewable energy development on the atlantic outer continental shelf pursuant to 30 cfr part 585

The purpose of this guidance document is to provide recommendations for complying with the information requirements in 30 CFR Part 585 Subpart F.

Identifying Information needs and approaches for assessing potential IMPACts of offshore wind farm development on fisheries resources in the northeast region

This report summarizes a project centered evaluating input on the potential impacts to fisheries resources from offshore wind energy development.

development of mitigation measures to address potential conflict between commercial eind energy lessees/grantees and commercial fishermen on the atlantic outer continental shelf

Final report on Best Management Practices and Mitigation Measures.

Working Groups

Each state has established forums to encourage continued stakeholder engagement.



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Main Phases


Planning and Analysis

To begin the process, BOEM identifies suitable areas for wind energy development.

BOEM will publish a Request for Interest (RFI) to determine whether there is competitive interest in leasing a given area. Once the RFI is published, they will also publish a call for information and nominations, allowing BOEM to gather geological, socioeconomic, biological, and environmental information about the site. At this time, BOEM will meet with local government, states, tribes, and others to hear their thoughts. After appropriate areas have been identified, otherwise known as Wind Energy Areas (WEAs), an environmental assessment is conducted to discern the impact the wind farm may have on the outer continental shelf.



In the second phase, BOEM will issue leases for development.

BOEM will issue leases on a competitive basis by publishing a proposed sale notice (PSN), during which they will request public comments. At least thirty days before the lease sale, BOEM will publish a final sale notice that lists the final terms as well as identifies qualified bidders that have demonstrated their interest in the lease. After the final sale notice, a bidding process takes place, where the winner of the auction is granted the lease.


Site Assessment

BOEM requests and reviews a site assessment conducted by the leaseholder. 

The lessee must complete a Site Assessment Plan (SAP), as well as a Construction and Operations Plan (COP). A SAP describes all initial activities that must take place before construction begins, and BOEM encourages lessees to conduct pre-survey meetings with BOEM and relevant stakeholders to develop lease stipulations. The SAP must include:

– Data from the initial activities that were used to characterize the lease site (like resource assessment surveys or technology testing activities)

– Data from physical characterization surveys such as geological and hazard surveys

– Data from baseline environmental surveys, such as biological or archaeological surveys



Construction and Operation

BOEM reviews the leaseholder’s construction and operations plan.

The COP must describe all proposed activities and planned facilities that a lessee intends to construct and use for their project. This includes onshore and offshore facilities, as well as anticipated project easements needed for the project. If BOEM deems the COP to be complete and sufficient, they will conduct their own technical and environmental reviews, prepare an appropriate NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) analysis, and coordinate with state agencies about Coastal Zone Management compliance. Once all these steps have taken place, BOEM can approve or deny the COP. If approved, the lessee can submit their design and installation plans, and begin their installation process soon after.