Another step toward wind projects aimed at generating energy off the coast of Louisiana and other Gulf states is being taken by the Biden administration.
The U.S. Department of the Interior is set to release what’s known as a “request for interest” to private companies later this week as a way to gauge the market’s appetite and feasibility for offshore wind projects in the Gulf of Mexico.
The Biden administration is pushing for 30 gigawatts of wind power to be built offshore by the private sector by 2030.
“This is an important first step to see what role the Gulf may play,” said Deb Haaland, Secretary for the Department of the Interior.
The request seeks businesses interested in developing projects off the coasts of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama. The federal government is primarily interested in wind power projects, but is also seeking information on any other renewable energy technologies available in the market.
After the request for information is published on June 11, there will be a 45-day window for public comment that will be used to determine the appetite for those projects among private firms.
But a long, difficult road lies ahead before turbine blades will be spinning in the distance from Gulf Coast beaches. Upfront costs for offshore wind farms and transmission infrastructure are still higher than solar power. And there’s been tepid demand from regional utilities, including Entergy, which has rebuffed requests in the past to invest in offshore wind, citing poor economics.
In general, wind power can cost utilities roughly five times for the same megawatt.
Still, there are reasons for renewable-energy firms to be hopeful. Two years ago, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management told the New Orleans City Council that the Gulf Coast – particularly, Texas, Louisiana and Florida – have some of the highest wind capacity in the nation. The water is also shallow enough in many areas to build vast wind farms anchored to the ocean floor, the federal regulator said.
At the time, the BOEM had sold leases worth nearly $500 million for wind projects off the East Coast, but had not awarded any leases in the Gulf. A massive 800-megawatt wind turbine project near Martha’s Vineyard was expected to be connected to the grid this year.
Louisiana businesses were tapped for expertise for the Block Island Wind Farm, a 30-megawatt project constructed off the coast of Rhode Island in 2016.
New Orleans BOEM regional director Mike Celata called the move a “first step” in the federal government’s ability to harness the expertise of those who have built the entire offshore oil industry.
The federal government has already leased 1.7 million acres for offshore wind and has 17 active commercial leases with businesses – mostly along the Atlantic seaboard from Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras.
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