Joan M. Bondareff and Keith B. Letourneau
The U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (“BOEM”) has identified two Wind Energy Areas (“WEAs”) in the Gulf of Mexico (“GoM”) to develop offshore wind farms. A lease sale is expected later this summer. One 546,000-acre WEA is located south of Galveston, Texas; the other is a 188,000-acre tract off the coast of Lake Charles, Louisiana. According to BOEM, the two WEAs have the potential to power 2.3 million and 799,000 homes, respectively, with clean energy generated by continuously renewable offshore wind.
Offshore wind promises various advantages over onshore wind farms, including stronger, more consistent, and less turbulent winds, and the use of substantially bigger towers and blades than onshore farms, resulting in more efficient and greater power generation; out-of-sight-and-sound facilities; the capacity to service large U.S. coastal populations; and the ability to avoid ecologically sensitive sites ashore. (See Onshore vs offshore wind energy: what’s the difference?) Moreover, according to some estimates, the GoM possesses the potential to generate almost 510 giga watts (“GW”) of offshore wind (“OSW”) annually. (See The Gulf of Mexico is poised for a wind energy boom. ‘The only question is when.’) Additionally, given the mature oil and gas offshore infrastructure along and off the Gulf Coast states, that infrastructure arguably can and would adapt to build and maintain OSW farms in the GoM.
This article reviews the next steps in the development of wind farms in the GoM, comparing the environments in other parts of the country with those in the Gulf region and describing the obstacles to actual production of offshore wind in the GoM.Continue reading “Offshore Wind Development Is Coming to the Gulf of Mexico”