As part of the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy capacity by 2030, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced it has finalized two Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) in the Gulf of Mexico, with the potential to produce enough clean wind energy to power nearly three million homes.
The first WEA is located approximately 24 nautical miles off the coast of Galveston, Texas. The area totals 508,265 acres and has the potential to power 2.1 million homes. The second WEA is located approximately 56 nautical miles off the coast of Lake Charles, La. The area totals 174,275 acres and has the potential to power over 740,000 homes
Under President Biden’s leadership, the administration has approved the nation’s first large-scale offshore wind projects, held record-breaking lease sales, and ushered in billions of dollars in private investment. This growing industry will provide Americans with cleaner and cheaper energy, create thousands of good-paying jobs, and invest billions in new American energy supply chains, manufacturing, shipbuilding and servicing.
BOEM uses 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 collaborated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to build an ocean model that analyzed the entire Gulf of Mexico ecosystem to find areas that have the least conflict with other uses and the lowest environmental impact.
“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 OCS. The region can play a central role in our nation’s clean energy transition to support good paying jobs, fight climate change,” BOEM Director Amanda Lefton, said in a statement announcing the designated wind energy areas. “BOEM will continue to work with the coastal states and communities as we advance our work and do so in a manner that seeks to avoid or minimize conflicts with other ocean uses and marine life in the Gulf of Mexico.”
In July 2022, the Department of the Interior announced that BOEM was seeking input on two draft WEAs during a 30-day public comment period. Due to feedback received during a Gulf of Mexico Renewable Energy Task Force meeting, BOEM extended the comment period to 45 days, which closed on Sept. 2, 2022. BOEM received 107 comments, which helped inform the final WEAs.
BOEM slightly reduced the size of the WEAs from their draft versions to address concerns expressed by the Department of Defense and the U.S. Coast Guard regarding shipping, marine navigation, and military operations.
The next steps in BOEM’s renewable energy competitive leasing process include issuing a Proposed Sale Notice with a 60-day public comment period later this year or early next year.