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Gulf of Mexico survey will explore potential of offshore wind

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in the US will conduct a survey to determine if the region can transform 50 years of offshore manufacturing and deployment expertise into a thriving offshore renewables industry.

Funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the project will examine the feasibility of potential offshore energy resources in the Gulf of Mexico.

The Department of Energy’s Wind Vision Report aims to install 86 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2050, with the Gulf Coast playing a large role. States in the region – including Florida, Texas, and Louisiana – will contribute 10 per cent, or 8.6GW, of offshore wind energy to help achieve the Wind Vision’s goals.

The Gulf offers advantages for offshore wind including shallow water that makes turbine installation easier, warm waters, accessibility and close proximity to existing offshore oil and gas infrastructure. However, the region’s lower wind speeds present a challenge, and hurricane-resistant turbine designs and survival strategies may be required to reduce the increased risk posed by environmental factors.

NREL’s Suzanne Tegen and Walt Musial will use a National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) developed geospatial offshore wind cost model to determine the levelised cost of energy for Gulf Coast offshore wind, which assesses variables like water depth, wind resource, and distance to port.

Current scenarios show the levelised cost of energy may fall below US$100 per megawatt hour by 2025 at some sites in the Gulf.

Researchers will also undertake a site-specific economic analysis to determine which offshore wind locations offer the most promise for developers. A job impact analysis, performed using NREL’s jobs and economic development impacts model, will estimate the economic impact of construction and turbine operations.

Offshore wind is not the only potential renewable energy source the survey will explore. Researchers will also evaluate the feasibility of wave and tidal energy, ocean current energy, ocean-based solar energy, ocean thermal energy, and deepwater source cooling.