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Here Are the Two Areas Being Considered for Gulf of Mexico Wind Farms

Mike Schuler
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July 21, 2022

President Biden and Department of the Interior on Wednesday announced new steps to advance offshore wind energy development in the Gulf of Mexico, the heart of America’s offshore oil and gas industry.

The DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has now published details on two potential wind energy areas (WEAs) that could be considered for its competitive leasing process, one of the first steps of offshore energy development in federal waters. Combined, the two areas encompass some 700,000 acres on the Outer Continental Shelf off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana and have the potential to power over three million homes.

The first draft WEA is located approximately 24 nautical miles off the coast of Galveston, Texas. The area for review totals 546,645 acres and has the potential to power 2.3 million homes with clean wind energy. The second draft WEA is located approximately 56 nm off the coast of Lake Charles, Louisiana. The area for review totals 188,023 acres and has the potential to power 799,000 homes. You can see the draft WEAs in the map below:

The two draft WEAs represent a relatively small subset of the original 30-million acre Gulf of Mexico Call Area that the Department of the Interior announced for public comment in October 2021. The draft WEAs were reduced to avoid potential impacts on other ocean uses and resources, such as commercial and recreational fishing, maritime navigation, military activities, marine protected species, avian species, and existing infrastructure.

BOEM will be accepting comments on the draft WEAs for 30 days beginning July 20, 2022.

“BOEM used the most current scientific data to analyze 30 million acres in the Call Area to find the best spaces for wind energy development. We are invested in working in partnership with states and communities to find areas that avoid or minimize conflicts with other ocean uses and marine life in the Gulf of Mexico,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton. “We are committed to a transparent, inclusive and data-driven process that ensures all ocean users flourish in the Gulf.”

According to the DOI’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE), there are nearly 1,700 active oil and gas platforms and 47 deepwater rigs in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico.

Over the past year, the Biden Administration?has kickstarted the domestic offshore wind industry?by approving the groundbreaking of the nation’s first two commercial-scale offshore wind projects in federal waters. By 2025, the Interior Department plans to potentially hold up to five additional offshore lease sales—following the successful New York Bight and Carolinas Long Bay lease sales held earlier this year—and complete the review of at least 16 plans to construct and operate commercial, offshore wind energy facilities, which would represent more than 22 gigawatts of clean energy for the nation.

“President Biden has called on us to address the climate crisis and Interior is taking that challenge to heart. The promise of renewable energy is undeniable, as is the momentum for a clean energy transition,” said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. “Today’s announcement in the Gulf of Mexico is one of many commitments we are making to spur innovation, create good-paying jobs, and collaborate with states, Tribes and communities to ensure that we are doing everything we can to care for our Earth.”

President Biden is also directing Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to advance wind development in waters off the U.S. Southeast, including Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, where former President Trump’s offshore drilling ban has caused uncertainty for potential wind energy development.

In addition to the draft WEAs, BOEM has prepared a draft Environmental Assessment (EA) covering the entire GoM Call Area to consider the potential impacts from site characterization (e.g., marine mammal surveys) and site assessment (e.g. installation of meteorological buoys) activities expected to take place following lease issuance.

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