U.S. Gulf offshore wind comes a big step nearer

Written by Nick Blenkey
Klein announces two sales that will require floating offshore wind solutions

BOEM Director Elizabeth Klein says Oregon and Gulf of Maine "commitment to exploring the potential for offshore wind development from coast to coast.”

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) today issued a final environmental assessment (EA) on potential impacts from offshore wind leasing on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico, a key milestone towards the potential first-ever offshore wind lease sale in the Gulf.

Based on the analysis in the EA, BOEM has issued a finding of no significant impacts to environmental resources.

BOEM says today’s announcement was made possible by the work of Gulf of Mexico Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force, a collaboration between federal, state, tribal and local government agencies to use the best available science and indigenous knowledge to minimize conflicts between ocean uses. BOEM will continue to meet with the task force as the process moves forward.

“The completion of our environmental review is an important step forward to advance clean energy development in a responsible manner while promoting economic vitality and well-paying jobs in the Gulf of Mexico region,” said BOEM Director Liz Klein. “We will continue to work closely with our task force members, ocean users, and others to ensure that any development in the region is done responsibly and in a way that avoids, reduces, or mitigates potential impacts to ocean users and the marine environment.”

On Oct. 31, 2022, BOEM announced two Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) offshore Texas and Louisiana that total about 682,000 acres – a subset of the 30-million-acre Call Area announced in November 2021. The WEAs represent offshore areas that appear to be the most suitable for wind energy development. On Feb. 22, 2023, BOEM announced its proposal for the first offshore wind lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico for areas within the WEAs.

BOEM prepared the EA on the entire 30-million-acre Call Area to allow greater flexibility for possible identification of additional WEAs and to provide NEPA coverage in the event that non-competitive and research leases were proposed in the Call Area. The EA considered potential environmental consequences of site characterization activities (i.e., biological, archeological, geological, and geophysical surveys and core samples) and site assessment activities (i.e., installation of meteorological buoys) associated with the possibility of issuing wind energy leases in the Gulf of Mexico.

If BOEM decides to proceed with the U.S. Gulf offshore wind sale, the bureau will publish a Final Sale Notice at least 30 days ahead of the sale, which will announce the time and date of the lease sale and the companies qualified to participate in it.

For any proposed offshore wind projects, BOEM will develop Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) to analyze the specific environmental consequences of the projects before deciding whether to approve them. The EISs will be prepared in consultation with tribes and appropriate government agencies and informed by input provided by key stakeholders, ocean users, and the public.

National Ocean Industries Association President Erik Milito released the following statement:

“Today’s announcement is an important step towards the build-out of the U.S. offshore wind sector. The Gulf of Mexico has long been renowned for its position as a premier offshore energy hub, leading through low carbon barrels of oil, and this achievement underscores its history of innovation and leadership. New offshore wind lease sales – along with the resumption of a long-term oil and gas leasing program – offers a foundation for the continued success of the Gulf of Mexico’s remarkable and irreplaceable energy portfolio.

“The synergy between offshore oil and gas and offshore wind is nothing short of remarkable. NOIA member companies have played a pivotal role in developing and constructing offshore oil and gas projects, as well as offshore wind projects. With the introduction of offshore wind in the Gulf Coast, numerous local companies will now have the opportunity to participate in the construction of new wind projects closer to home.

“The American offshore energy sector benefits for Americans of all walks of life and this relationship will strengthen with new offshore wind opportunities. We are excited for the offshore wind opportunity in the Gulf of Mexico.”

  • More information on the final EA and FONSI HERE
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