BOEM sees limited potential for tidal, wave, offshore solar in GOM

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has released two new studies on renewable energy in the Gulf of Mexico.

BOEM Survey and Assessment of the Ocean Renewable Energy Resources in the US Gulf of Mexico

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) researchers helped undertake these studies, funded by BOEM’s Environmental Studies Program.

Offshore Renewable Energy Technologies in the Gulf of Mexico study analyzed different technologies best suited for development in the GOM.

The renewable energy resources evaluated included wind, wave, tidal, current, solar, deepwater source cooling, and hydrogen.

The analysis found that offshore solar photovoltaics had the greatest gross potential resource.

However, without a demonstrable method of surviving extreme waves on the open ocean, none of that resource counts toward the technical resource potential.

Furthermore, it was noted that there are many sheltered sites in state waters that may be suitable for offshore solar; not evaluated in this study.

Other renewable energy technologies surveyed in this study may present opportunities for energy generation on a limited basis.

Tidal energy has very little resource in the GOM, according to BOEM.

However, specific sites in Florida and Texas identified in this study have potential for small distributed systems.

There are also limited cold water source cooling options in the GOM because the best resource is far from shore.

Wave energy, OTEC, and ocean current all have major challenges that may preclude their implementation in the GOM.

However, longer term technological and economic improvements are possible.

Offshore Wind

Of all the technologies, BOEM said offshore wind had the largest quantity of technical resource potential with 508 gigawatt (GW) covering all GOM states, although Texas and Louisiana show the highest overall technical offshore wind resource potential.

Once offshore wind was identified as the leading technology for Gulf of Mexico application, BOEM and NREL further analyzed of the economic feasibility of offshore wind for selected sites in the Gulf of Mexico.