The Biden administration advanced a federal review of the impact of leasing public waters for offshore wind farms in the Gulf of Mexico on Tuesday.
The review is part of President Joe Biden’s goal to permit at least 30 gigawatts of offshore wind production by 2030, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced. BOEM will study the environmental impacts of wind farm leases across a 30-million-acre swath of ocean that stretches from the Mississippi River to the U.S.-Mexico border off the coast of Texas.
“The Gulf of Mexico is well-positioned to support a transition to a renewable energy future, as much of the infrastructure already exists to support offshore wind development in the region,” said BOEM Director Amanda Lefton.
“BOEM’s Environmental Assessment is an important step to ensure that any development in the region is done responsibly and in a way that avoids, reduces, or mitigates potential impacts to the ocean and to ocean users,” Lefton said.
In October, the Biden administration announced its 30-gigawatt-by-2030 goal and green lit funding for seven wind farms off the east and west coasts. If the goal is met, about 10 million homes would be powered by the new wind farms, the Department of the Interior said at the time.
BOEM said it would narrow the studied area down to several “Wind Energy Areas,” or locations in the Gulf of Mexico most suitable for wind farms. The agency will factor the biological, archeological and geological impact into determining which areas are best and conduct another assessment for each proposed project.
“Should a lease sale advance, prior to approving the construction of any offshore wind energy facility in the Gulf of Mexico, BOEM will develop an Environmental Impact Statement to analyze the specific environmental consequences of any proposed project, in consultation with Tribes and appropriate federal, state, and local agencies, and with participation by stakeholders and the public,” the announcement said.
The administration has also moved forward on solar farm projects in California which it said would power up to 274,000 homes. The Bureau of Land Management plans to develop renewable energy projects across 10.8 million acres in California.
Solar and wind expansion, though, has been criticized by experts who say the two energy sources are unreliable and intermittent. On average, solar panels produce just 30% of their total energy capacity while wind farms produce 45% of their capacity, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA).
If the U.S. were to construct 30 gigawatts of wind capacity by 2030, it would receive less than 15 gigawatts of production, according to the EIA estimate.
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