The Department of the Interior today proposed plans for the first-ever offshore wind lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico.
The proposed sale is part of the leasing path announced by the Interior Department in 2021 to meet the Biden administration’s goal to deploy 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind energy capacity by 2030 and follows Interior’s approval of the nation's first two commercial scale offshore wind projects.
“America’s clean energy transition is happening right here and now. At the (Interior) Department, we are taking action to jumpstart our offshore wind industry and harness American innovation to deliver reliable, affordable power to homes and businesses," Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. “There is no time to waste in making bold investments to address the climate crisis, and building a strong domestic offshore wind industry is key to meeting that challenge head on.”
Since the start of the Biden administration, the Department has held three offshore wind lease auctions — including a record-breaking sale offshore New York and the first-ever sale offshore the Pacific Coast in California — initiated environmental review of 10 offshore wind projects, and advanced the process to explore additional Wind Energy Areas in Oregon, Gulf of Maine and Central Atlantic. The Department has also taken steps to evolve its approach to offshore wind to drive towards union-built projects and a domestic based supply chain.
The announcement of the Gulf lease sale "is an important step in the build-out of the U.S. offshore wind sector," said National Ocean Industries Association President Erik Milito. Decades of innovation and experience has enabled the Gulf of Mexico to become a premier offshore energy region, including being a leader in low carbon oil and gas production. "Through offshore wind, along with regular and predictable offshore oil and gas leasing, the U.S. Gulf of Mexico can expand its remarkable and irreplaceable energy portfolio."
“The advancement of an offshore wind lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico is a game changer," Liz Burdock, founder and CEO of the Business Network for Offshore Wind, said in a statement. "Gulf companies are already instrumental in the development of the U.S. market and by opening new lease areas on their doorstep we will leverage our unique domestic expertise even further. The result will be industrywide innovations making offshore wind development more efficient and less expensive while maintaining strong safety and environmental protections and leading to substantial export opportunities for American businesses.”
The Proposed Sale Notice (PSN) announced today includes a 102,480-acre area offshore Lake Charles, La., and two areas offshore Galveston, Texas, one comprising 102,480 acres and the other 96,786 acres. BOEM is seeking public comments on which, if any, of the two lease areas offshore Galveston should be offered in the Final Sale Notice. These areas have the potential to power almost 1.3 million homes with clean energy, the Interior Department said.
BOEM is also seeking feedback on several lease stipulations that would reaffirm its commitment to create good-paying jobs and engage with ocean users and other stakeholders. Some of these potential stipulations include:
- Bidding credits to bidders that commit to supporting workforce training programs for the offshore wind industry, developing a domestic supply chain for the offshore wind industry, or a combination of both.
- Establishing and contributing to a fisheries compensatory mitigation fund or contributing to an existing fund to mitigate potential negative impacts to commercial and for-hire recreational fisheries caused by offshore wind development in the Gulf of Mexico.
- Requiring that lessees provide a regular progress report summarizing engagement with Tribes and ocean users potentially affected by proposed offshore wind activities.
The PSN will be published in the Federal Register later this month and initiates a 60-day public comment period. If the Department decides to proceed with the sale, BOEM will publish a Final Sale Notice at least 30 days ahead of the sale, which would announce the time and date of the lease sale and the companies qualified to participate in it.