The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management said Tuesday it found no significant impacts to environmental resources from offshore wind in the Gulf of Mexico.
BOEM said its finding is a “key milestone” on the path to scheduling a first-ever offshore wind lease auction in the Gulf.
The agency announced its intent to sell offshore wind leases in the Gulf of Mexico in February, proposing the sale of 102,480 acres offshore Lake Charles, Louisiana, as well as a 102,480-acre area and a 96,786-acre area offshore Galveston.
Those two lease sites are subsets of a 30-million-acre area west of the Mississippi River to the border of Texas and Mexico, which BOEM had announced as a potential wind energy area in November 2021. The sites represent the two areas “most suitable for wind energy development,” but the environmental analysis was performed on the entire 30 million acres.
This was “to allow greater flexibility for possible identification of additional [wind energy areas]" and provide coverage under the National Environmental Policy Act in the event that non-competitive and research leases are proposed in the Call Area, BOEM said.
BOEM also cited the work of the Gulf of Mexico Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force — a collaboration among tribal, federal, state and local government agencies — as having made the announcement possible by collating available science and indigenous knowledge to minimize ocean use conflicts.
The agency will continue to meet with the task force “as the process moves forward,” it said.
During the first-ever Floating Offshore Wind Shot summit in February, NOAA Fisheries Assistant Administrator Janet Coit said that the identification of wind energy areas in the Gulf of Mexico was a successful example of lease siting that took marine habitats and ocean uses into account to minimize impacts on fisheries and avoid future conflicts.
The next step in the leasing process for the Gulf is for the agency to issue a Final Sale Notice, which it plans to do later this year. The notice would precede the lease sale by at least 30 days, and announce the time and date of the sale and the companies qualified to participate.