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Multiple US agencies launch offshore wind power development efforts


US offshore wind power development expanding

Lease areas could power almost 1.3 million homes

  • Author
  • Jared Anderson    Tom Tiernan
  • Editor
  • Richard Rubin
  • Commodity
  • Electric Power Energy Transition

The White House and multiple US agencies Feb. 22 rolled out initiatives to support manufacturing of components, leasing of offshore waters, siting, and environmental reviews of planned floating offshore wind facilities to meet Biden administration goals.

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Leaders within the departments of Energy, Interior, Transportation and Commerce announced efforts around transmission development on the West Coast, vessel construction, marine habitat protection, leasing in the Gulf of Mexico and cooperating with sister agencies to try and add 15 GW of floating offshore wind by 2035 and reduce the cost of floating offshore wind projects by more than 70% by the same year.

Because two-thirds of the offshore waters planned for wind projects are too deep for turbines to be attached to the ocean floor, bringing the price of floating wind projects down and having domestic manufacturing to support operations and maintenance of the floating facilities will be key, speakers said during a floating offshore wind shot summit. The Biden administration's goal is to have "everybody rowing in the same direction," said Ali Zaidi, national climate advisor in the White House.

Coinciding with efforts on the West Coast – where the steep drop-off of coastal waters makes floating offshore wind projects preferred over facilities tethered to the seabed – and the Gulf of Mexico, California and Louisiana have joined 11 other states on the Federal-State Offshore Wind Implementation Partnership, officials said. California also became the first state on the West Coast to join the National Offshore Wind Research and Development Consortium, DOE said.

Interior Feb. 22 proposed the first-ever offshore wind power lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico as the Biden administration works to meet the goal of installing 30 GW of offshore wind power capacity by 2030.

The proposed sale is part of the leasing path Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced in 2021 to meet the administration's offshore wind energy capacity goal and follows the department's approval of the nation's first two commercial-scale offshore wind projects, Interior said in a statement.

Since the start of the Biden administration, the Interior Department has held three offshore wind lease auctions, including a record-breaking sale offshore New York that received winning bids by six companies totaling approximately $4.37 billion.

The department has also held the first-ever offshore wind lease sale off the California Coast, initiated environmental review of 10 offshore wind projects and advanced the process to explore additional "Wind Energy Areas" in Oregon, Gulf of Maine and Central Atlantic, the Interior Department said.

The Proposed Sale Notice includes a 102,480-acre area offshore Lake Charles, Louisiana, and two areas offshore Galveston, Texas, one comprising 102,480 acres and the other comprising 96,786 acres. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, a division of the Interior Department, is seeking public comments on which, if any, of the two lease areas offshore Galveston should be offered in the Final Sale Notice, according to the statement.

These areas have the potential to power almost 1.3 million homes, the department said.

Lease stipulations

BOEM is seeking feedback on several lease stipulations, with some of these potential stipulations including:

Bidding credits to bidders that commit to supporting workforce training programs for the offshore wind industry, developing a domestic supply chain for the offshore wind industry, or a combination of both.

Establishing and contributing to a fisheries compensatory mitigation fund or contributing to an existing fund to mitigate potential negative impacts to commercial and for-hire recreational fisheries caused by offshore wind development in the Gulf of Mexico.

Requiring that lessees provide a regular progress report summarizing engagement with Tribes and ocean users potentially affected by proposed offshore wind activities.

If the Interior Department decides to proceed with the sale, BOEM will publish a Final Sale Notice at least 30 days ahead of the sale, which would announce the time and date of the lease sale and the companies qualified to participate in it, according to the statement.

"Today's announcement is another significant milestone in the development of domestic offshore wind production," Josh Kaplowitz, the trade group American Clean Power Association's vice president for offshore wind, said in an emailed statement.

"This proposed lease sale will continue the legacy of energy production in the Gulf of Mexico, providing Americans with an affordable clean energy supply," Kaplowitz said.

At the Maritime Administration within DOT, the agency is using loan guarantees and grants to help fund port-related infrastructure projects to support offshore wind project development, said Administrator Ann Phillips. The agency last year designated offshore wind vessels as vessels of national interest, making them eligible for financial support through Title XI of the federal ship financing program, which will help with construction of special vessels needed to develop offshore wind projects and be compliant with the Jones Act, Phillips said during the summit.

Coordination at other agencies includes BOEM and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration working together on environmental reviews and ensuring sensitive marine habitat is not harmed as floating offshore wind projects are planned, officials with the agencies said. The tremendous interest in offshore wind lease sales shows that an inflection point has been reached to aid offshore wind project development, said Haaland.

DOE next month expects to announce winners of the floating offshore wind readiness prize, which will provide funding to improve domestic manufacturing of floating offshore wind components, officials said.