US Department of the Interior unveils plans for offshore wind in Gulf of Mexico

4C Offshore | Tom Russell
By: 21/07/2022 DOI

The US Department of the Interior (DOI) announced its next steps to bring offshore wind energy to the Gulf of Mexico.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), part of DOI, 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 (WEAs) in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

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.

The first draft WEA is located approximately 24 nautical miles (nm) off the coast of Galveston, TX. The area for review totals 546,645 acres which DOI claims has the potential to power 2.3 million homes with wind energy. The second draft WEA is located approximately 56 nm off the coast of Lake Charles, LA. The area for review totals 188,023 acres and is said to have the potential to power 799,000 homes.

The two draft WEAs represent a subset of the original 30-million acre Gulf of Mexico Call Area that the DOI announced for public comment in October 2021. The draft WEAs 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 WEAs will be accepted for 30 days beginning 20 July 2022.

In addition to the draft WEAs, BOEM has prepared a draft environmental assessment (EA) 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 EA analysis will inform potential lease stipulations necessary to address identified environmental impacts associated with offshore wind leasing activities.

Public comments on the draft EA will also be accepted for 30 days beginning 20 July 2022.

For more information on offshore wind farms worldwide, click here.