Environment

The Orsted Block Island Wind Farm in this aerial photograph taken above the water off Block Island, Rhode Island.
Eric Thayer | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The Biden administration on Wednesday proposed the first-ever offshore wind lease sale in the Gulf of Mexico as part of a larger plan to install offshore wind sites along the country’s coasts.

The proposed lease sale is part of the Interior Department’s plan to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy capacity by the end of the decade, which would be enough to power 10 million homes. The announcement also follows the agency’s approval of the first two commercial scale offshore wind projects in the U.S.

The proposed sale includes a 102,480-acre area offshore Lake Charles, Louisiana, and two areas offshore Galveston, Texas — one that comprises 102,480 acres and the other that comprises 96,786 acres, the Interior said. The agency said it’s seeking public comment on which of the Galveston areas would be auctioned to lease.

The proposed lease areas could collectively power nearly 1.3 million homes with clean energy, the Interior 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,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.

The Gulf of Mexico has long been home to oil and gas production. Last year, the administration released a five-year offshore drilling plan allowing some lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico. The president had previously committed to suspend all new federal drilling on public lands and waters.

The National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA), a trade group for offshore oil, gas, wind and ocean minerals industries, said that offshore wind would expand the Gulf of Mexico’s energy portfolio.

“The energy, jobs, and investment opportunities from Gulf of Mexico offshore wind will be additive to the incredible benefits the offshore oil and gas sector provides our nation,” NOIA President Erik Milito said.

The offshore wind sector could help mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and create $109 billion in revenue over the next decade, according to a report by the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind, an independent project at the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment.

Since Biden took office, the Interior has held three offshore wind lease auctions, including sales in New York and the Pacific Coast in California, and has started environmental review of ten offshore wind projects.

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

Once the Interior publishes the proposal this month, the public has a 60-day comment period. If the Interior proceeds with the sale, it will release a final notice at least 30 days ahead of the sale as well as announce the date of the sale and the companies allowed to participate.

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