Biden administration announces first-ever wind energy lease sale in Gulf of Mexico

CNN Newsource Pristine Villarreal

(CNN) — The Biden administration on Wednesday announced the first-ever US offshore wind energy lease sale for the waters in the Gulf of Mexico, an area long dominated by oil and gas production.

The White House and US Department of Interior said they are proposing to open up more than 300,000 acres of offshore waters for offshore wind development — one area off the coast of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and two off the coast of Galveston, Texas. However, Interior is taking public comment on whether one or both Galveston areas will be auctioned to lease.

The details of the lease sale were shared first with CNN.

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said the announcement was part of the effort to “jumpstart our offshore wind industry” in the US. The Biden administration intends to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, plus another 15 gigawatts of energy produced by floating offshore wind turbines by 2035.

That goal could power 10 million homes, create 44,000 new jobs in the offshore wind industry by 2030 and nearly 33,000 additional jobs in communities supported by offshore wind activity, the Biden administration has said.

“There is no time to waste in making bold investments to address the climate crisis and building a strong domestic offshore wind industry is key to meeting that challenge head on,” Haaland said.

The areas in the Gulf of Mexico being proposed for leases have the potential to power nearly 1.3 million homes, according to Interior, and would be home to the kind of fixed-base wind turbines that are already in shallower Atlantic waters off the coasts of Rhode Island and Virginia.

Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management “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,” the bureau’s director, Elizabeth Klein, said in a statement.

The White House also announced that California and Louisiana are joining an existing federal-state offshore wind implementation partnership, which focuses on building out a supply chain for offshore wind turbines and boosting workforce training in the industry.

The announcements come as the White House and federal agencies are kicking off a two-day summit on the future of the floating offshore wind industry. The Biden administration has partnered with researchers and engineers who are building and testing designs for floating offshore wind turbines, and has set a goal of reducing the costs associated with the technology by over 70% by 2035.

These turbines — still in development — will eventually be used in deeper waters off the West Coast and the Gulf of Maine. Tethered to the seabed using cables, they can be installed further away from the shore than fixed-base turbines and could drastically expand the capacity of offshore wind in the US.

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