Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards announced a renewable energy initiative for the Gulf of Mexico, with plans to harness the state’s strengths in offshore energy production for the development of wind power, the U.S.’s No. 1 source of renewable energy.
Gov. Edwards presented his vision at the inaugural meeting of the Climate Initiatives Task Force he created earlier this year. Offshore wind energy will be one of many strategies pursued by the task force to curb the growth of greenhouse gas emissions that have reduced air quality, contributed to coastal erosion through sea rise, and increased the severity of weather events.
“I have asked Dr. Walter Cruickshank and the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to help us establish a task force of federal, state and local officials who will build a blueprint for renewable energy production in the Gulf of Mexico,” Gov. Edwards said. “This is not some ‘pie in the sky’ promise of economic opportunity. We already have an emerging offshore wind energy industry, and Louisiana’s offshore oil and gas industry has played a key role in the early development of U.S. offshore wind energy in the Atlantic Ocean.”
Off the coast of Rhode Island, Lafayette-based Aries Marine Corp. and Galliano-based Falcon Global LLC are Louisiana liftboat operators that helped develop the nation’s first commercial offshore wind farm — Block Island. For that project, Metairie-based Keystone Engineering provided design assistance and Houma-based Gulf Island Fabrication built foundation jackets and piling.
“Renewable energy like offshore wind can help the state cut its emissions and do its part in avoiding the worst impacts of climate change,” said deputy director Harry Vorhoff of the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities. “I applaud Governor Edwards for opening the door, so we can take a hard look at how and where renewable energy is deployed in the federal waters off Louisiana’s coast. I look forward to working with BOEM and coordinating this effort across federal, state, local, and tribal governments.”
In a recent letter, Gov. Edwards asked the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s acting director, Dr. Cruickshank, to establish the task force that will coordinate commercial leasing proposals for wind energy in federal waters off Louisiana’s coast. That effort will create a business path for development of wind farms in the Gulf of Mexico.
A single 600-megawatt wind farm in the Gulf would produce an estimated 4,400 jobs and $445 million in economic output during the construction phase, based upon modeling by U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Operations would contribute 150 new permanent jobs, along with an estimated $14 million in annual spending. By 2035, industry forecasts suggest U.S. offshore wind energy capacity could grow to 22 gigawatts through $70 billion of new capital investment in manufacturing and port infrastructure, as well as 45,000 new direct jobs.
“Louisiana possesses numerous important sectors of our economy, including longstanding and significant contributions from the energy industry,” LED secretary Don Pierson said. “As technology and expertise advances, we should explore additional opportunities in energy, such as offshore wind. Some of the state’s offshore oil and gas service-providers have already played a key role in the early development of offshore wind projects off the East Coast, so it makes plenty of sense to pursue that renewable energy source and the associated economic benefits.”
Part of the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Bureau of Ocean Management commissioned a pair of three-year studies to determine the technical feasibility and economic potential of offshore wind energy in the Gulf of Mexico. Both studies were completed in 2020 by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which estimates the Gulf of Mexico could produce 10 percent of U.S. wind energy.
“Offshore wind is an exciting and multifaceted opportunity for Louisiana,” said president and CEO Michael Hecht of GNO Inc. “Wind is a natural extension of Louisiana’s energy industry and employs many of its existing sectors like offshore marine services. Wind is also an advanced manufacturing opportunity, with the world’s largest wind turbine blades already under development in New Orleans. Finally, wind will help support Louisiana’s growing reputation as a leader in environmental management.”