Photo: NREL/BOEM

Offshore wind could meet 166% of Texas’s electricity demand

The U.S. state of Texas has an offshore wind potential in the Gulf of Mexico that could provide the state with 166 per cent of its electricity needs, according to the recently published Offshore Wind for America report, which found that offshore wind could meet 90 per cent of the U.S. projected 2050 electricity demand.

Environment Texas Research & Policy Center, a state branch of Environment America Research & Policy Center which issued the report, has called on the state of Texas to form a task force to begin siting offshore wind after the federal government last year identified Port Isabel and Port Arthur as viable sites for offshore wind and selected the two Texas towns for more detailed cost analysis.

There are currently 34 proposals for offshore wind development in the U.S., including 27 projects in various stages of planning and development, totalling more than 26 GW of installed capacity. However, there are no offshore wind farms planned in the Gulf of Mexico yet.

The Gulf of Mexico has unique attributes, and challenges, for developing offshore wind. Shallow, warm water, smaller waves, and existing offshore infrastructure and expertise are an advantage, while lower wind speeds and hurricane risk are challenges, according to Luke Metzger, Executive Director of Environment Texas Research & Policy Center.

“With strong winds in the evenings when we need energy the most, offshore wind in the Gulf of Mexico would greatly complement Texas’ onshore renewable energy resources and help us achieve 100% clean power”, Luke Metzger said. “We can put the infrastructure and expertise we developed for offshore drilling to work developing this abundant, clean resource”.

A study issued in May 2020 by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), found that a 600 MW offshore wind farm in the Gulf of Mexico, with a commercial operation date of 2030, would bring some 4,470 jobs and USD 445 million in gross domestic product (GDP) during construction. Offshore wind in the Gulf of Mexico could also reach subsidy-free levels by the early 2030s, with a levelized cost of energy (LCOE) at USD 70/MWh.

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Several months after the study was released, Louisiana Governor Edwards launched a task force to coordinate commercial leasing proposals for wind energy in federal waters off Louisiana’s coast. Environment Texas called on Governor Abbott, Land Commissioner Bush and other state leaders to take similar steps to develop offshore wind off the Texas coast.

It is worth noting that the analysis from BOEM and NREL did not include the likely further jobs or impacts in the Gulf of Mexico that may be created while supporting offshore wind projects built in other regions of the U.S., or the world, which would bring additional economic potential.