First Gulf of Mexico Areas for Offshore Wind Energy Projects Finalized
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has finalized the details of the first two Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) in the Gulf of Mexico. The move comes just weeks after the Biden Administration set the December date for the first lease auction off the California coast and is in keeping with the administration’s timeline for the deployment of 30 GW offshore wind energy capacity by 2030.
The release confirmed the details for the sites to be located off the coast of Texas and Louisiana designed to co-exist with the oil and gas industry and leverage the energy infrastructure already developed in the region. According to BOEM, the two sites which total nearly 700,000 acres have the potential to produce enough wind energy to power nearly three million 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 OCS. The region can play a central role in our nation’s clean energy transition to support good paying jobs, and fight climate change,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton. “BOEM 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.”
Today’s announcement is the next step in a process launched more than 17 months ago when the Department of Interior details plans for the offshore wind industry in the Gulf of Mexico. In July 2022, BOEM began seeking input on two draft wind energy areas (WEA) during a public comment period. The comment period closed on September 2, 2022. BOEM reports it received 107 comments, which helped inform the final WEAs.
BOEM finalized the areas as the next step toward auctions likely to happen in 2023 (BOEM)
One of the two projects, the larger area defined in this process, is off the coast of Texas. It would be located approximately 24 nautical miles off the coast of Galveston. The area totals 508,265 acres and has the potential to power 2.1 million homes.
The second area announced today is off the coast of Louisiana. It would be located approximately 56 nautical miles off the coast of Lake Charles. The area totals 174,275 acres and has the potential to power over 740,000 homes.
BOEM said it 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. 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.
The proposed areas were slightly reduced the size from their draft versions to address concerns expressed by the Department of Defense and the U.S. Coast Guard regarding shipping, marine navigation, and military operations.
The next steps in BOEM’s renewable energy competitive leasing process include issuing a Proposed Sale Notice. There would be another comment period after which BOEM could move to finalize details for auctions to be conducted in 2023.