Posted on July 25, 2022
The U.S. Department of the Interior has taken a step forward in identifying wind lease areas in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, expanding its efforts beyond the Atlantic and Pacific seaboards.
The Gulf outer continental shelf could benefit from many natural advantages for the offshore wind industry: a skilled workforce for fabricating, installing and servicing offshore infrastructure; a broad shallow shelf, suitable for cheaper bottom-fixed wind development; benign average wave heights; and a supply chain of shipyards, OSV operators and port facilities. At least nine major wind developers have expressed interest in investing in the region.
On Wednesday, DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced that it has identified two wind energy areas (WEAs) on the Gulf OCS, both within the giant 30 million acre call area announced in November.
The first draft WEA is located about 24 nautical miles off the coast of Galveston. The area for review totals nearly 550,000 acres and has the potential to power 2.3 million homes with clean wind energy. A portion has been removed from the center of the region to account for shrimp-fishing interests.
The second draft WEA is located about 56 nm off the coast of Lake Charles, Louisiana. The area for review totals 190,000 acres and has the potential to power 800,000 homes.
Both are located in areas that are periodically transited by major hurricanes, meaning that some amount of design adaptation will be necessary to account for extreme waves and wind loading.
“BOEM used the most current scientific data to analyze 30 million acres in the Call Area to find the best spaces for wind energy development. We are invested in working in partnership with states and communities to find areas that avoid or minimize conflicts with other ocean uses and marine life in the Gulf of Mexico,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton.
BOEM has also released its draft environmental assessment for the full 30 million acre call area. Public comments on the draft WEAs will be accepted over the next thirty days.