Two Sites Designated for Wind Energy Development in Gulf of Mexico
NEW ORLEANS — Federal regulators have finalized the designation of two wind energy areas in the Gulf of Mexico they say have the potential to produce enough clean energy to power nearly 3 million homes annually.
The designation of the two areas was announced Monday by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and clean energy advocates are calling it “a crucial step” in bringing wind energy — and the jobs it creates — to an area long dedicated to oil and gas development.
The first wind energy area is located approximately 24 nautical miles off the coast of Galveston, Texas. The area totals 508,265 acres and has the potential to power 2.1 million homes.
The second wind energy area is located approximately 56 nautical miles off the coast of Lake Charles, Louisiana. The area totals 174,275 acres and has the potential to power over 740,000 homes.
“These two wind energy areas represent exciting progress toward having the first offshore wind lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico, where there is a mature industry base and the know-how to advance energy development in the outer continental shelf,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton in a written statement.
“The bureau will continue to work with the coastal states and communities as we advance our work and do so in a manner that seeks to avoid or minimize conflicts with other ocean uses and marine life in the Gulf of Mexico,” she said.
The agency uses its renewable energy competitive leasing process to identify the offshore locations that appear most suitable for development, taking into consideration potential impacts to resources and ocean users.
In this case, BOEM collaborated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to build an ocean model that analyzed the entire Gulf of Mexico ecosystem to find areas that have the least conflict with other uses and the lowest environmental impact.
In July 2022, the Interior Department announced the bureau was seeking input on two draft WEAs during a 30-day public comment period.
Due to feedback received during a Gulf of Mexico Renewable Energy Task Force meeting, the bureau extended the comment period to 45 days, which closed on Sept. 2.
In all, the agency received 107 comments, which helped inform the final wind energy areas, officials said.
Among the resulting changes: BOEM slightly reduced the size of the wind energy areas from their draft versions to address concerns expressed by the Defense Department and the U.S. Coast Guard regarding shipping, marine navigation, and military operations.
In a written statement, Josh Kaplowitz, vice president for offshore wind for the American Clean Power Association said the designation of the new wind energy areas will bring the nation considerably closer to the Biden administration’s goal of deploying 30 GWs of offshore wind by 2030.
“If leased in their entirety, these nearly 700,000 acres designated off the coasts of Galveston, Texas and Lake Charles, Louisiana, have the potential to power more than 2.8 million homes with clean, domestic energy,” he said, noting that offshore wind projects in these areas “could also play a key role in advancing the emerging green hydrogen economy, leveraging an existing offshore energy supply chain and trained workforce in the Gulf region.
“This region has been critical in developing our modern domestic energy infrastructure – and now, with offshore wind, it will also be recognized as a leader in shaping the global energy transition while cultivating energy independence, reducing carbon emissions and creating tens of thousands of full-time jobs,” Kaplowitz said.
The next steps in BOEM’s renewable energy competitive leasing process include issuing a Proposed Sale Notice with a 60-day public comment period later this year or early next year.