U.S. Plans First Effort to Explore Offshore Wind in the Gulf of Mexico

offshore wind in Gulf of Mexico
BOEM will issue first resuts for interest for renewable energy in the Gulf of Mexico (BOEM)

Published Jun 8, 2021 4:48 PM by The Maritime Executive

As part of the Biden Administrations' commitment to expanding the development of renewable energy, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced the first effort to assess the potential opportunities in the Gulf of Mexico, encroaching on the historic territory of the offshore oil and gas industry that lines the Gulf Coast. The announcement that the administration is seeking interest for the development of offshore wind installations in the Gulf comes two weeks after the administration announced plans to expand offshore wind on the Pacific Coast as part of Biden’s overall plan to generate 30 gigawatts of renewable energy from wind by 2030.

“The Biden-Harris administration has energized the offshore wind industry by announcing the first-ever national offshore wind energy goal, creating a roadmap for the future of this innovative industry,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton. “I’m excited to see the Gulf be a potential part of this historic effort.”

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced today that it will publish a Request for Interest in the Federal Register on June 11 to assess interest in potential offshore wind development along the Gulf Coast. The RFI will be focused on the Western and Central Planning Areas of the Gulf of Mexico offshore the states of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama. Although the primary focus of the RFI is on wind energy development, BOEM is also seeking information on other renewable energy technologies.

While there has been support in parts of the Gulf region for the renewable energy industry, the Biden Administration may also face critics for this move. Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards has expressed interest in developing offshore wind projects, but the oil and gas industry was frustrated by Biden’s decision to pause all new offshore oil and gas leases.

“The Gulf of Mexico has decades of offshore energy development expertise. Today’s announcement represents the first step in harnessing that expertise and applying it to the renewable energy sector,” said Mike Celata, regional director of BOEM’s Gulf of Mexico office in New Orleans. “Working directly with our partners in the Gulf, we will make sure that offshore renewable energy development proceeds in an orderly, safe, and environmentally responsible manner.”

Once published, the RFI will open a 45-day public comment period to solicit indications of competitive interest and additional information on potential environmental consequences and other uses of the proposed area. BOEM will consider data received in response to this RFI to determine the next steps in the renewable energy leasing process in the Gulf of Mexico. The BOEM will also convene the Gulf of Mexico Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force starting on June 15 to help coordinate planning, solicit feedback, and exchange scientific and process information. 

To date, BOEM reported that it has leased approximately 1.7 million acres for offshore wind development and has 17 commercial leases on the Atlantic, from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras.

Two weeks ago, the Biden Administration announced an agreement to advance areas for offshore wind off the northern and central coasts of California. In 2018, BOEM began the process to explore three areas in the region, including Humboldt and Morro Bay. The new announcement said that an agreement to advance areas for offshore wind off had been reached, including roughly 399 square miles northwest of Morro Bay that will support 3 gigawatts of offshore wind as well as advancing the Humboldt Call Area. In total, these initial areas for offshore wind development could provide up to 4.6 GW of clean energy, BOEM reported.