NEW ORLEANS — The US Department of the Interior announced next steps to bring the opportunity of offshore wind energy to the Gulf of Mexico (GoM).
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) works under 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 is seeking public input on the identification of two potential wind energy areas in the GoM Outer Continental Shelf.
Over the past year, the US government has launched its offshore wind industry by approving the nation’s first two commercial-scale, offshore wind projects in federal waters. By 2025 the Interior Department plans to potentially hold up to five additional offshore lease sales and complete the review of at least 16 plans to construct and operate commercial, offshore wind energy facilities, which would represent more than 22 GW of clean energy for the nation.
BOEM Director Amanda Lefton said, “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."
The first draft wind energy area is located about 24 nautical miles off the coast of Galveston, Texas. The area for review totals 546,645 acres and has the potential to power 2.3 million homes with clean wind energy. The second draft wind energy area is located about 56 nautical miles off the coast of Lake Charles, La. The area for review totals 188,023 acres and has the potential to power 799,000 homes.
The two draft wind energy areas represent a subset of the original 30-million-acre GoM call area that the Department of the Interior announced for public comment in October 2021. The draft wind energy areas were reduced to avoid potential impacts on other ocean uses and resources, such as commercial and recreational fishing, maritime navigation, military activities, marine protected species, avian species and existing infrastructure.
Public comments on the draft wind energy areas will be accepted for 30 days beginning July 20.
In addition to the draft wind energy areas, BOEM has prepared a draft environmental assessment covering the entire call area to consider the potential impacts from site characterization (e.g., marine mammal surveys) and site assessment (e.g., installation of meteorological buoys) activities expected to take place following lease issuance. The environmental assessment analysis will inform potential lease stipulations necessary to address identified environmental impacts associated with offshore wind leasing activities. Public comments on the draft environmental assessment will also be accepted for 30 days beginning July 20.
During the comment period, BOEM will hold two virtual public meetings where the public can learn more about the environmental review process. There will also be an opportunity for participants to ask questions and provide comments on the draft assessment.