Galveston could get huge offshore wind project, feds say

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Federal officials said Wednesday they are considering leasing a huge amount of offshore land for wind projects about 24 nautical miles off Galveston.

If developed, the wind energy area would cover 546,645 acres — an area larger than the city of Houston — which Bureau of Ocean Energy Management officials say could produce enough electricity to power about 2.3 million households.

A second project has also been proposed about 56 nautical miles off Lake Charles, which would cover 188,023 acres. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management officials said the second project could generate enough electricity for 799,000 homes.

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, or BOEM, officials said it was still early in the process and the proposed wind power area is still in draft form. They are soliciting public comments on the proposed area and the leases on their website. They will hold two town halls on the proposals virtually on August 9 and 11, and more information and registration details can be found here. here.

“We are in the early stages of planning offshore wind leases in the Gulf of Mexico. Once the final wind energy area(s) have been identified, the next step is to propose a lease sale for public comments later this year or early next year,” said John Filostrat, spokesman for BOEM’s Gulf of Mexico office.

It would likely be up to states, wind developers and intergovernmental agencies to determine whether the generated electricity would be interconnected with ERCOT or the nearby East Coast Interconnector. It would be up to the Coast Guard to determine whether commercial or recreational vessels — including commercial fishing and shrimp fishing operations — could enter waters near wind turbines, BOEM officials said, adding that they had already held several meetings with fishing groups and associations. this year because they planned the leases.

As a result, they said they had already cut out chunks of the concession area to be left bare for shrimp fishing operations to continue.

READ MORE: The Biden administration wants to open the Gulf to offshore wind power. Is Texas ready?

The announcement is part of a Biden administration initiative to help develop 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind generation by 2030, a stunning increase from the 42 megawatts of electricity produced by the two offshore wind farms alone. currently operating nationwide. Both of these projects are in state waters – and there are currently no projects underway in federal waters.

Fifteen other projects are in the licensing phase and eight states have set targets to acquire a combined 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 declines as it reaches Florida, according to a Bureau of Ocean Energy Management study.

Gulf Coast winds are still not as strong or as consistent as those on the East Coast, where existing offshore wind farms are located, said Michael Matthews, US representative for the energy-promoting World Forum Offshore Wind. wind turbine all over the world.

“It’s not fantastic,” Matthews said of the wind in the gulf in an October 2021 interview. do with the North Sea in Europe or the Northeast (United States).”

The Gulf, however, is attractive to wind developers because of its existing offshore infrastructure, Matthews said.

The request for comments for draft leases is part of the first of four stages of offshore wind development. The second step is to sell the leases and carry out more detailed environmental impact studies; the third is site assessments; and the fourth is construction and operation. It can take around 10 years from the initial stage of offshore wind development before wind turbines are operational.

Plans for offshore wind development in the Gulf lag behind plans along the East Coast. Offshore wind leases have already been put up for sale in North Carolina, New Jersey, New York and Massachusetts.

RELATED: As developers push for leases, offshore wind looms as America’s next big energy boom

If offshore wind power comes to ERCOT, it could help the grid meet the record and growing demand the not-for-profit grid operator has seen in recent months. For a while Wednesday afternoon, demand topped 80,000 megawatts, an all-time high.

Some state officials, including ERCOT Acting CEO Brad Jones and Governor Greg Abbott, have blamed poor performance by the state’s onshore wind fleet for tight grid conditions this summer, though it has long been known that the wind blows less on hot summer days and is mostly at its best during winters and evenings. Offshore wind, however, works much better in the middle of hot days.

Ed Hirs, an energy researcher at the University of Houston, said having more power generation near major population centers helps reduce congestion on transmission lines and can help reduce the local electricity prices. However, he said, the region will still need dispatchable thermal generation to meet demand when wind generation is low.

“It doesn’t remove the need for backup generators,” he said. “Is this a good thing to build? Absolutely, it adds a resource that we desperately need. But if the weather isn’t cooperating all the time, ERCOT or the host network will need to have some sort of backup generation capability. .”

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

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