Federal regulators announced Thursday the first ever Gulf of Mexico offshore wind lease sale, opening sites off the coast of Lake Charles and Galveston, Texas, that could potentially power nearly 1.3 million homes. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will auction off the lease sites on Aug. 29. BOEM published the final sale notice for three areas, each roughly 100,000 acres in federal waters. One is off the coast of Lake Charles, while the other two are offshore from Galveston.
The areas have the potential to generate 3.7 gigawatts of electricity, according to a U.S. Department of Interior press release. The sites include 20 nautical mile buffers for migratory birds and menhaden fisheries and exclude waters considered moderate or high shrimping zones.
Thursday’s announcement marks the Biden administration’s third approval of large offshore wind projects in the country. The president’s goal is to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030, offering companies a variety of renewable energy tax incentives that Congress enacted through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act. Leasing is the early phase of development. After companies purchase the leases, they conduct site assessments that can take up to five years before construction begins.
“Today’s announcement marks another historic step in the Biden-Harris administration’s efforts to create a clean energy future. By catalyzing the offshore wind energy potential of the Gulf of Mexico, we can tackle the climate crisis, lower energy costs for families and create good-paying jobs,” said Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
“The Gulf of Mexico is poised to play a key role in our nation’s transition to a clean energy future,” said BOEM Director Elizabeth Klein. “Today’s announcement follows years of engagement with government agencies, states, ocean users, and stakeholders in the Gulf of Mexico region. We look forward to continued collaboration in the years to come.”
Studies by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found Gulf winds can provide double the energy currently being used in all five Gulf states. Gulf wind speeds are highest in the west off the coast of Texas and southwest Louisiana, so most development will likely be concentrated in those areas with wind turbines that can withstand Category 5 hurricanes. That’s a good thing, because with water temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico now above 90º F (32º C) for the first time in recorded history, more powerful storms are coming to the Gulf in the very near future.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Simon Mahan, executive director of the Southern Renewable Energy Association, told the Louisiana Illuminator. His organization has been promoting the idea of offshore wind power in the Gulf of Mexico for 15 years. He added that one of the biggest challenges for Louisiana will be finding a buyer for the electricity, because Louisiana utility companies have long resisted incorporating renewables into their generation portfolios.
However, Mahan said there is growing interest in using wind energy to produce hydrogen fuel, a process known as “green hydrogen.” Lake Charles is already part of the largest hydrogen hub in the nation. “We’re seeing such a growing interest particularly around green hydrogen production,” he said. “We may be able to pair offshore wind with green hydrogen to kickstart that industry.”
The Politics Of Wind
Lake Charles is one of the most polluted places on Earth, thanks to its warm embrace of the oil and gas industries for many decades. So what if the water is too hot for fish to survive? So what if the seas are rising? So what if hurricanes devastate local communities? There’s money to be made processing, shipping, and selling oil and gas. Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!!
The knock-on from wind and solar and all the other clean energy sources coming online today is that they will put hundreds of thousands of oil and gas employees out of work. Their houses and trucks will be repossessed, their children will go without shoes, and there will be no food on their tables. The reality is that there will be a transition to jobs in renewable energy — a transition made possible by the provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act and other federal policies that promote new employment opportunities. Some of the benefits incorporated into the Gulf of Mexico wind leases include:
- Bidding credits to bidders who commit to supporting workforce training programs, developing a domestic supply chain for the offshore wind energy industry
- Bidding credits for 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 energy 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 energy activities
Clean Energy & Social Justice
Such attention to social equity is simply a concept the members of the Red Team cannot comprehend. In the press release announcing the wind leasing program, the Biden administration made its commitment to an equitable transition to clean energy clear.
“President Biden’s Investing in America agenda and “Bidenomics” strategy are growing the American economy from the middle out and bottom up — from rebuilding our nation’s infrastructure, to driving over $490 billion in private sector manufacturing and clean energy investments in the United States, to creating good paying jobs and building a clean energy economy that will combat climate change and make our communities more resilient. The Administration is making a once in a generation investment in America’s infrastructure and our clean energy future and taking the next steps to bring offshore wind energy to additional areas around the country.”
President Biden made the announcement about the Gulf of Mexico wind leases at the Philly Shipyard, where the first specialized vessels designed to install offshore wind turbines are being built. Up until now, these ships have all come from other nations. Now, thanks to the foresight of the Biden administration, America will have its own fleet of wind turbine installation ships made in America by American workers. Which begs this question: who is actually making America great again? It sure isn’t the Red Team, who have nothing to offer except bile, rage, and stupid hats made in China.
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