WASHINGTON — Almost 700,000 acres in the Gulf of Mexico are likely to be made available to offshore wind developers as early as next year, the Biden administration announced Monday.
The two areas identified, one 24 nautical miles off the coast of Galveston and the other 56 nautical miles off Lake Charles, La., would provide the first offshore wind development in the Gulf of Mexico.
“These two wind energy areas represent exciting progress toward having the first offshore wind lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico, where there is a mature industry base and the know-how to advance energy development in the outer continental shelf,” said Amanda Lefton, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
The announcement comes as the Biden administration seeks to jump-start the nation’s offshore wind industry, after a record $4.4 billion auction for the right to develop waters off New York earlier this year.
President Joe Biden has laid out the goal of getting 30 gigawatts of offshore wind in operation by 2030, which would mean building between 2,000 and 4,000 turbines. Fewer than 10 turbines are in operation now.
The Gulf does not have the same strength and consistency of wind as the East Coast, but the region’s existing network of manufacturers and workers for the offshore oil industry has been touted as a natural fit for offshore wind.
A 2020 report by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado said the Gulf has 25% of the nation’s technically achievable wind energy resources, noting that “the infrastructure and supply chains for offshore wind are compatible to the oil and gas industry.”
But it’s unclear whether Gulf leases would attract as much interest from developers as those along the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines, where states have established lucrative incentives for developers, with electric customers typically picking up the difference between the price at which wind farms can sell electricity and the high costs of developing turbines many miles out to sea.
In Virginia, for instance, Dominion Energy is expected to spend more than $125 per megawatt-hour to build a 2,600-megawatt wind farm off the coast — more than double what it costs to build a natural gas-fired plant.
The area announced Monday was less than the more than 730,000 acres Bureau of Ocean Energy Management proposed for lease in July, after complaints from the Department of Defense and the Coast Guard that construction of wind turbines in those areas would interfere with shipping and military operations.
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