The U.S. has proposed its first-ever offshore wind lease sale for the Gulf of Mexico (GoM), continuing its efforts to deploy 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2030.
The move, announced Feb. 22, came as the Biden-Harris administration also took steps to grow the nation’s floating wind sector by launching an offshore wind transmission study focused on the West Coast, expanding an offshore wind R&D consortium and developing an offshore wind operations and maintenance roadmap.
“America’s clean energy transition is happening right here and now. At the Department, we are taking action to jumpstart our offshore wind industry and harness American innovation to deliver reliable, affordable power to homes and businesses,” Interior Department Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. “There is no time to waste in making bold investments to address the climate crisis, and building a strong domestic offshore wind industry is key to meeting that challenge head on.”
The proposed wind lease sale in the GoM, home to vast oil and gas production, would open 102,480 acres offshore Lake Charles, La., and two areas offshore Galveston, Texas— one for 102,480 acres and the other for 96,786 acres—for wind development. Combined, the areas could power nearly 1.3 million homes with clean energy, according to the Interior Department.
Growing the U.S. offshore wind sector has been a key piece of the Biden administration’s clean energy ambitions. So far, the Block Island off Rhode Island and the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind projects are the only two wind farms operating in federal waters, located off the East Coast. However, several more are in the works—mostly off the East Coast—and more could be on the horizon.
In December, the first Pacific Ocean wind lease sale paved the way for floating wind in federal water as development rights in five lease areas offshore California’s Morro Bay and Humboldt areas were awarded.
Though the GoM’s wind resources are lower than northern Atlantic and Pacific coastal states, according to a 2020 study prepared by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), resource capacity is large in shallow GoM water less than 60 m deep. Under certain conditions, it ranked wind resource capacity offshore Louisiana, Texas and Florida among the highest in the U.S. Developments in shallow water utilize fixed-bottom wind turbines.
National Ocean Industries Association president Erik Milito called the proposed sale an “important step in the build-out of the U.S. offshore wind sector.”
“Decades of innovation and experience has enabled the Gulf of Mexico to become a premier offshore energy region, including being a leader in low carbon oil and gas production,” Milito said. “Through offshore wind, along with regular and predictable offshore oil and gas leasing, the U.S. Gulf of Mexico can expand its remarkable and irreplaceable energy portfolio.”
BOEM said it is seeking feedback on potential lease stipulations associated with the proposed sale. These include granting credits to bidders that support workforce training programs or domestic supply chain development, establishing and contributing to a fisheries compensatory mitigation fund and requiring lessees provide progress reports summarizing their engagement with tribes and ocean users potentially affected by proposed offshore wind activities.
If BOEM proceeds with the sale, a final sale notice will be published at least 30 days before the sale announcing the sale’s time, date and qualifying companies.
So far, the U.S. has held three offshore wind lease auctions. Besides the Pacific Ocean sale, wind auctions took place for acreage offshore New York and offshore the Carolinas.
The New York Bight offshore wind auction for six leases in February 2022 drew competitive winning bids from six companies totaling nearly $4.4 billion in bids, while the Carolina Long Bay Offshore Wind lease sale in May for two leases brought in $315 million in total winning bids.
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