Background - Practices (Details)

Offshore Wind


There are no operating offshore wind facilities in the United States, but offshore wind is poised to become a major domestic source of renewable energy. While the regulatory landscape is new, unsettled, and rapidly shifting, Crowell & Moring's offshore wind team brings unique experience to this nascent industry: its professionals have decades of experience with the legal issues surrounding the development of power plants and other large, often first-of-their-kind infrastructure projects. They also have unique capabilities with regard to the complexities of offshore project permitting and development in particular, which proceeds under the same statutory framework and with the same agencies as offshore wind development.

Crowell & Moring has been active over the past several years in the continuing emergence of the offshore U.S. wind industry. Here are a few representative examples:

  • We were retained in 2012 by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), following a competitive bid, to advise the agency on its administration of a $180 million grant program designed to encourage the development of innovative offshore wind energy technologies. The firm worked closely with high-level DOE officials to review over twenty grant applications submitted by developers of proposed offshore wind facilities, on both coasts and in the Great Lakes. Our attorneys evaluated each application for its understanding of—and ability to comply with—the complex system of federal, state, and local regulatory requirements faced by offshore wind developers in the United States.
  • We advised a major wind developer on permitting requirements for a proposed offshore wind development in one of the federally-designated Wind Energy Areas in the Mid-Atlantic region.
  • Our professionals have advised several offshore wind developers on various issues in connection with the development and financing of proposed projects.
  • Crowell & Moring, working with the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), Tetra Tech, and WEST Consulting, is drafting an offshore wind siting handbook that will guide developers through the leasing and permitting process in both federal and state waters.

Crowell & Moring also brings to the U.S. offshore wind energy industry decades of experience guiding companies through the permitting process for onshore wind farms and Outer Continental Shelf oil and gas development, as well as a global reach that is particularly valuable to non-U.S. companies with offshore wind development experience to utilize that know-how for U.S. projects. Crowell & Moring is uniquely positioned to facilitate the entry of European offshore wind developers and suppliers into the U.S. market. Our offices in London and Brussels work seamlessly with our U.S. offices to advise renewable energy companies as they navigate EU competition laws and other regulations, seek compliance with U.S. trade and customs requirements, and structure cross-border mergers and distribution agreements.

Onshore Wind Energy: We have represented clients through all phases of development of onshore wind projects, including investor due diligence, tax planning, interconnection agreements, and federal and state regulatory permits and licenses. We are experienced in wind project permitting issues arising under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act (BGEPA), and other wildlife protection laws. We have also litigated ESA and other wildlife issues in all federal circuits, and have defended wind developers in litigation when their projects were challenged by local opponents.

Offshore Oil and Gas: Crowell & Moring has extensive experience with these projects—both on the federal Outer Continental Shelf and in state waters. Federal permitting for offshore wind projects operates under the same statutes and regulatory frameworks as for offshore oil and gas projects. Our offshore oil and gas experience spans all aspects of project development, from close coordination with project proponents to develop application documents designed to secure approval and withstand potential litigation challenges, collaboration with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and its predecessor agencies on Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) leasing and operational permitting issues to compliance with the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), ESA, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and various Coast Guard and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requirements. These efforts often include coordination with the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service related to the Services' trust species. Finally, if permits are challenged, we intervene in litigation to defend them, drawing from the deep knowledge of the project we have developed in the permitting phase. In the course of this work, we have developed relationships with many of the same federal and state regulators and community stakeholders who are anticipated to be involved in the approval of, or opposition to, offshore wind projects.