The Department of the Interior today announced the next steps to bring offshore wind energy to the Gulf of Mexico in response to the President’s call to expedite offshore wind development and quicken the shift to a clean energy economy.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) uses its competitive leasing process for renewable energy to determine the offshore areas that seem most suited for development, taking potential consequences to resources and ocean users into mind.
BOEM is seeking public opinion on the identification of two possible wind energy areas (WEAs) in the Gulf of Mexico’s (GOM) Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).
“President Biden has called on us to address the climate crisis and Interior is taking that challenge to heart. The promise of renewable energy is undeniable, as is the momentum for a clean energy transition,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland.
“Today’s announcement in the Gulf of Mexico is one of many commitments we are making to spur innovation, create good-paying jobs, and collaborate with states, Tribes and communities to ensure that we are doing everything we can to care for our Earth.”
By approving and commemorating the groundbreaking of the country’s first two commercial-scale offshore wind projects in federal seas over the past year, the Biden-Harris administration has helped to establish the American offshore wind industry.
The Interior Department intends to consider at least 16 plans for the development and operation of commercial offshore wind energy facilities by 2025, which would result in the production of more than 22 gigawatts of clean energy for the country. In addition, the Interior Department may conduct up to five additional offshore lease sales.
“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. “We are committed to a transparent, inclusive and data-driven process that ensures all ocean users flourish in the Gulf.”
Approximately 24 nautical miles (nm) off the coast of Galveston, Texas, is where you may find the first draft WEA. 546,645 acres of the region under consideration have the capacity to generate enough clean wind energy to power 2.3 million homes. About 56 nautical miles (nm) off the coast of Lake Charles, Louisiana, is where you may find the second draught WEA. The 188,023-acre region under consideration has the capacity to supply electricity to 799,000 homes.
The original 30-million-acre Gulf of Mexico Call Area, which the Department of the Interior presented for public comment in October 2021, is a subset of the two drafts WEAs.
To minimise potential effects on other ocean users and resources, including commercial and recreational fishing, maritime navigation, military operations, marine protected species, bird species, and current infrastructure, the draft WEAs were reduced.
Beginning on July 20, 2022, public comments on the draught WEAs will be taken for a period of 30 days.
Along with the draft WEAs, BOEM has also created a draft environmental assessment (EA) for the entire call area to take into account any potential effects of the site characterization (such as marine mammal surveys) and site assessment (such as the installation of meteorological buoys) activities anticipated to occur after lease issuance.
Potential lease clauses that are required to address detected environmental consequences related to offshore wind leasing activities will be informed by the EA analysis. Beginning on July 20, 2022, public comments on the draft EA will also be taken for a period of 30 days.
The public can learn more about the environmental review procedure at two virtual public forums that BOEM will offer during the comment period. Participants will also have the chance to remark on and ask questions about the draft EA.
The Gulf of Mexico Renewable Energy webpage of BOEM has directions on how to register for the public meetings and how to submit questions and comments.