The Biden Administration’s plan to achieve 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy capacity by 2030 has taken another step forward with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) issuing a final environmental assessment (EA) on the potential impacts of offshore wind leasing in the Gulf of Mexico.
This marks a crucial milestone towards the potential first-ever offshore wind lease sale in the U.S. Gulf. According to the analysis conducted in the EA, BOEM has determined that there will be no significant impacts on environmental resources.
BOEM Director Liz Klein spoke of the importance of the environmental review and its findings.
“The completion of our environmental review is an important step forward to advance clean energy development in a responsible manner while promoting economic vitality and well-paying jobs in the Gulf of Mexico region. We will continue to work closely with our task force members, ocean users, and others to ensure that any development in the region is done responsibly and in a way that avoids, reduces, or mitigates potential impacts to ocean users and the marine environment,” Klein said.
On October 31, 2022, BOEM had identified two Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) off the coast of Texas and Louisiana, spanning some 682,000 acres and are part of the larger 30-million-acre Call Area that was announced in November 2021. In February, BOEM proposed the first offshore wind lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico, specifically targeting areas within the identified WEAs.
The proposed sale includes a 102,480-acre area offshore Lake Charles, Louisiana and two areas offshore Galveston, Texas, one comprising 102,480 acres and the other comprising 96,786 acres. Together, the areas has the potential to power almost 1.3 million homes with renewable energy.
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To allow for greater flexibility in identifying additional WEAs and to provide National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) coverage for potential non-competitive and research leases within the Call Area, BOEM prepared the EA for the entire 30-million-acre region.
The environmental assessment considered the potential environmental consequences of site characterization activities, such as biological, archaeological, geological, and geophysical surveys, as well as site assessment activities, including the installation of meteorological buoys, associated with the possibility of issuing wind energy leases in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Gulf of Mexico lease sale is one of seven that BOEM intends to hold by 2025 as part of the Biden Administration’s goal to deploy 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind energy capacity by 2030. Already under the Biden Administration, the Department of the Interior has already 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—in addition to approving the nation’s first two commercial scale offshore wind projects.
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