Feds say Galveston could get a massive offshore wind project

Federal officials said Wednesday that they are looking into leasing a massive amount of offshore land for wind projects about 24 nautical miles off the Galveston coast.

If developed, the wind power district would cover 546,645 acres — an area larger than the city of Houston — which officials in the Office of the Ocean Energy Administration say could produce enough electricity to power about 2.3 million homes.

A second project has also been proposed about 56 nautical miles off the coast of Lake Charles, which would cover 188,023 acres. Office of Ocean Energy Administration officials said the second project could produce enough power for 799,000 homes.

This is still early in the process, and the proposed wind energy region is still a draft, officials from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, said. They are asking for public comments on the proposed area and rental contracts on their website. They will convene two village councils to discuss the proposals on August 9 and 11.

BOEM officials said it is up to states, and wind power developers, to determine whether the electricity generated will be interconnected with ERCOT or connecting the adjacent East Coast.

The announcement is part of the Biden administration’s initiative to help develop 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind generation by 2030, a staggering increase from the 42 megawatts of electricity produced by the only two offshore wind farms currently operating nationwide. These two projects are in state waters—no projects are currently operating in federal waters.

Related: With developers demanding leases, offshore winds line up with America’s next big energy boom

Another 15 projects are in the permitting phase, and eight states have set targets to purchase 39,298 megawatts by 2040, according to the US Department of Energy. One megawatt is enough to power about 200 homes on a hot summer day.

Wind power along the Gulf Coast tends to be strongest near Corpus Christi and Brownsville, but wanes by the time it reaches Florida, according to a study by the Office of the Ocean Energy Administration.

Michael Matthews, US representative at the Global Offshore Wind Forum, which promotes wind energy worldwide, said Gulf Coast winds are still not as strong or consistent as those on the East Coast, where current offshore wind farms are located.

“It’s not great,” Matthews said of Wind in the Gulf in an October 2021 interview. “It’s okay, it’s good for offshore winds, but it’s not like the North Sea in Europe or the Northeast (US).”

Read more: The Biden administration wants to open the Gulf to offshore wind energy. Is Texas ready?

Matthews said the Gulf region is attractive to wind energy developers because of its existing offshore infrastructure.

The request for comment on the draft lease contracts is part of the first four phases of offshore wind energy development. The second stage is the sale of lease contracts and further detailed environmental impact studies; The third is site ratings; The fourth is build and operate. It may take about 10 years from the initial stage of offshore wind development before the wind turbines are operational.

Plans to develop offshore wind energy in the Gulf lag behind plans along the east coast. Offshore wind leases have already been sold in North Carolina, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts.

This is an evolving story, check back for updates.

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