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Biden administration proposes offshore wind auction in the Gulf of Mexico

Crane hangs over the first jacket installed to support a turbine for a wind farm in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean off Block Island
Brian Snyder
A crane hangs over the first jacket installed to support a turbine for a wind farm in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean off Block Island, Rhode Island, in 2015. Deepwater Wind, a planned five-turbine, 30-megawatt wind farm off the coast of Block Island would be North America's first offshore wind farm. It's a milestone the company said that could pave the way for an industry long established in Europe but still struggling with opposition in the United States.

The U.S. Department of the Interior on Wednesday proposed the first offshore wind auction in the Gulf of Mexico.

The proposed auction includes an area of more than 100,000 acres in the waters off Lake Charles, Louisiana, and two similarly sized areas off Galveston.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management seeks public comment on which of the two areas offshore from Galveston should be included in the final sale.

“This proposed lease sale will continue the legacy of energy production in the Gulf of Mexico, providing Americans with an affordable clean energy supply. It will also help secure our nation’s energy independence while reducing costs for consumers,” said Josh Kaplowitz, vice president for offshore wind for the American Clean Power Association.

The National Ocean Industries Association praised the proposal and said it would complement the existing oil and gas industry in the area.

“Through offshore wind, along with regular and predictable offshore oil and gas leasing, the U.S. Gulf of Mexico can expand its remarkable and irreplaceable energy portfolio,” said Erik Milito, the association's president.

Supporters point to existing sea cable infrastructure in the Gulf and its shallow coastal waters, which make it an ideal area for marine wind farm development. They believe the water facilities could also complement inland wind farms in Texas.

“Of course, we know that the wind power is not generated all of the time, but this is a significant resource that the federal government wants to develop,” said Ed Hirs, an energy fellow at the University of Houston.

Hirs said the approval process is complicated, and it could be up to a decade before wind farms in the Gulf of Mexico could begin generating electricity.

The Biden administration has held three offshore wind lease auctions, including major projects in New York and California. It is exploring potential wind sales in areas off the coast of Oregon as well as the Gulf of Maine and an area in the Central Atlantic.

The administration’s goal is to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy capacity by 2030, which could power more than 10 million homes.

“BOEM is committed to ensuring any offshore wind activities are done in a manner that avoids or minimizes potential impacts to the ocean and ocean users,” said Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Elizabeth Klein. “Today’s announcement comes after years of engagement with Tribes, other government agencies, ocean users and stakeholders, and this proposed sale notice provides another opportunity for them to weigh in on potential offshore wind leasing in the Gulf of Mexico.”

There will be 60 days of public comment on the Gulf of Mexico proposal before the administration will decide whether or not to move forward on a final sale.

Houston Public Media contributed to this report.

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As TPR's news director, Katz leads the organization’s news and journalism efforts, overseeing the newsroom’s day-to-day management and the development of a strategic vision for the news division. He also serves on the organization’s executive leadership team.