- The Department of the Interior announced Wednesday a first-ever offshore wind sale in the Gulf of Mexico, proposing two lease areas offshore Galveston, Texas, and one offshore Lake Charles, Louisiana.
- During the first-ever Floating Offshore Wind Shot summit, officials with Interior and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that they had partnered on siting for these lease areas by creating an ocean model to analyze the Gulf’s ecosystem.
- The White House also announced Wednesday that California and Louisiana have joined the Federal-State Offshore Wind Implementation Partnership, joining 11 East Coast states.
The Gulf of Mexico lease sale is part of Interior’s previously stated goal to hold seven new offshore lease sales by 2025 and deploy 30 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030.
Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has proposed leasing 102,480 acres offshore Lake Charles and two 102,480-acre and 96,786-acre areas offshore Galveston, and is seeking comment on which, if any, of the Galveston areas should be offered for sale.
During the summit, White House National Climate Advisor Ali Zaidi said the new leases, along with December’s wind energy auction off the coast of California, and California and Louisiana’s participation in the federal-state partnership are part of a “growth trajectory” for the industry.
California and Louisiana are collaborating with federal agencies and other states on priorities, including building a U.S. supply chain and skilled workforce for offshore wind, a White House release said.
During Wednesday’s summit, BOEM Director Liz Klein said the bureau had collaborated with NOAA while siting the three new lease areas to build an ocean model “that analyzed the entire Gulf of Mexico ecosystem to find those areas that have the least conflict with other users, and the lowest environmental impact.”
The leases stipulate prioritizing workforce training, domestic supply chain development, community engagement and support for fishing operations, she said.
NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator Janet Coit said the study of how to minimize impacts on marine mammals as the U.S. continues to permit projects “requires more innovation and attention.” As an example, she said NOAA and BOEM issued a joint draft strategy last year on how to protect right whales during the offshore wind build-out.
“We need to ensure that new ocean developments don't impede the recovery of right whales, and the technologies associated with offshore wind pose some new challenges that we will address together,” Coit said. “Anticipating and planning ahead are critical to achieving our ocean co-use goals, and one successful way to approach this is through marine spatial planning.”
Coit said marine spatial planning, which maps an ocean’s habitats and uses, helps avoid future conflict as offshore wind is deployed.
“A recent successful example of this approach was in the identification of wind energy areas by BOEM in the Gulf of Mexico,” Coit said. “BOEM coordinated closely with NOAA and other stakeholders to identify areas that would minimize impacts on fisheries and other uses. Expanding the use of spatial planning will help ensure we can meet our ocean co-use goals.”
As the U.S. aims to meet a goal of reducing the cost of floating offshore wind 70% by 2035, NOAA administrator Rick Spinrad said “proactive research and technological development” will help it meet those goals while protecting oceans.
Developments he cited include innovations to floating wind anchoring systems that reduce impact on the ocean, and improved characterizations of wind resources to include floating wind to aid project siting and turbine control design.
Klein said that as BOEM works to increase wind energy deployment offshore of the Pacific states, it is pursuing “thoughtful engagement with tribes, ocean users and local communities” on issues such as ocean co-use.