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Feds Eye Gulf Coast for Offshore Wind Sites

The Interior Department said it plans to assess the potential for wind energy development in the Gulf of Mexico along the coast of four states.

NEW ORLEANS (CN) — The Biden administration announced plans Tuesday to assess the potential for harnessing wind energy in the Gulf of Mexico.

“This significant milestone is part of the Biden-Harris administration’s goal to create thousands of jobs through the deployment of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030,” the Department of the Interior said in a press release.

Thirty gigawatts should be more enough to provide electricity to 10 million homes, according to an agency fact sheet.

The Gulf of Mexico assessment will focus on areas off the coast of Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama.

The Biden administration's push to ramp up offshore wind capability comes as a potential 35 gigawatts of capacity are already being developed as part of the United States' “offshore wind pipeline.”

So far, the Interior Department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has leased approximately 1.7 million acres of the Outer Continental Shelf for offshore wind power development and has 17 commercial leases on the Atlantic, from Massachusetts' Cape Cod to Cape Hatteras in North Carolina.  

The U.S. currently has just two operational wind farms, both on the East Coast, though others are in the planning and permitting stages. Last month, the federal government agreed to lease a 400-square-mile site off California’s Central Coast for the development of floating wind farms to aid the state’s push for 100% renewable electricity.

While the Interior Department’s primary focus in the Gulf of Mexico exploration project will be on wind energy, the agency said it will seek information on other renewable energy technologies as well.

“The Interior Department is committed to developing a robust and sustainable clean energy economy,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement. “We know that offshore wind development has the potential to create tens of thousands of good-paying, union jobs across the nation. This is an important first step to see what role the Gulf may play in this exciting frontier.”

Amanda Lefton, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said the Biden administration is “creating a roadmap for the future of this innovative industry.”

“I’m excited to see the Gulf be a potential part of this historic effort,” she said in a statement.

In March, the White House announced plans to rapidly expand offshore wind farming along the East Coast with the goal of creating thousands of jobs in the process.

The plan involves a new priority wind energy area designated by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management in the New York Bight. The Interior Department says wind farming in this area of shallow waters between Long Island and the New Jersey coast could create 25,000 development and construction jobs in the next 10 years, as well as an additional 7,000 jobs in communities supported by the development and thousands of additional jobs annually. 

The Biden administration says it will fast-track permitting for wind projects off the Atlantic Coast and plans to provide $1 million in grants to study the impacts of wind projects on fisheries and communities. Additionally, the Energy Department plans to allocate $3 billion toward offshore wind growth through its loan guarantee program. 

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