Louisiana begins negotiations for the first three wind farms in the Gulf of Mexico

Energy companies aren’t waiting for the federal government to open the waters off the Gulf of Mexico to wind development. Norwegian and Japanese wind farm developers have already bid on at least three projects in Louisiana-managed coastal waters, which offers a potentially faster process for building the first Gulf wind turbines.

We have had significant interest, Governor John Bel Edwards said of the projects. Speaking at the recent American Clean Power Conference in New Orleans, Edwards said he could not identify the companies due to ongoing negotiations with the state Department of Natural Resources, but indicated the companies have their sights set on two areas in the waters of the Louisiana, extending about three miles from the coast

I believe they could be installed in state waters several years before they are successful in federal waters, said Edwards, who has made offshore wind development a key component of Louisiana’s efforts to combat climate change.

Edwards at Clean Energy

Governor John Bel Edwards discusses offshore wind energy at the American Clean Power Conference in New Orleans on May 24, 2023.

DNR records indicate that the state is negotiating offshore wind lease agreements with Mitsubishi-owned Diamond Offshore Wind and Kontiki Winds, a Norwegian company that operates in Louisiana under the Pelican Winds name.

Notes from the May 10 meeting of the DNR Mineral and Energy Council noted discussions of Diamond’s proposals for waters off Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes and a proposal from Kontiki for waters off Cameron parishes and Vermillion. The discussions were part of the executive session of the meeting and were not open to the public.

DNR staff could not discuss the proposals because they are still under negotiation, but indicated that two companies have proposed three different wind farms. Diamond did not respond to inquiries. Kontiki confirmed his offer on Wednesday but did not answer specific questions about his plans. In a statement, the company said it hoped to build a “commercial-scale” project that would be “the first offshore wind farm in the Gulf of Mexico.”

Block Island Wind Farm

Wind turbines in the Atlantic Ocean near Block Island, Rhode Island, photographed in September 2021.

In September, Diamond and Entergy Corp. announced a partnership to explore offshore wind projects in the Gulf, a first step in a process that now appears to be gaining traction. Diamond is a subsidiary of Mitsubishi, a Japanese automaker that has diversified into natural gas production and other energy businesses. Diamond has seven commercial-scale offshore wind projects and is developing a floating wind farm project off the coast of Maine.

Kontiki has shown interest in developing floating wind farms that would power offshore oil and gas platforms. According to an agreement signed in January by Kontiki with Houston-based marine engineering firm Oceaneering, the companies will collaborate on floating micro-grid wind projects connected to offshore platforms and small islands in the Gulf and off the coast of Brazil and Northern Europe.

It’s unclear how large or how far the proposed wind farms in Louisiana waters would be. Wind developers and state leaders expect little opposition because few people have homes on Louisiana’s swampy coast and the Gulf fishing industry is already used to navigating around drilling rigs and other oil and gas infrastructure. Concerns have been raised about the impacts on wildlife, especially the millions of birds that migrate across the Gulf each year.

Island block

The platforms for these wind turbines in the Atlantic Ocean near Block Island, Rhode Island were built in southern Louisiana.

Federal versus state waters

Federally managed waters, which begin where state waters end and stretch 200 miles, have higher average wind speeds and greater potential for large-scale projects, but companies are increasingly willing to invest in larger-scale projects. reduced scale in state waters thanks, in part, to a streamlined approval process.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management recently reduced wind development areas in federal Gulf waters by two-thirds and slowed the lease process to allow for accelerated plans for new oil and gas drilling.

Bidding for the first federal offshore lease areas in the Gulf is expected to begin this summer. The areas will likely cover a 102,000-acre patch south of Lake Charles and two patches near Galveston, Texas that could be reduced to 100,000 acres.

Wind farm developers would have to carry out site assessments, surveys, environmental reviews and other steps that could take much of the remaining decade. The first wind farms in federal waters likely won’t begin construction until 2030.


The 262-foot-long Eco Edison offshore wind support vessel is seen at LaShip in Houma on Tuesday, April 4, 2023. (Photo by Brett Duke, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

Several industry representatives expressed frustration with the federal permitting process at the Clean Power conference. There is a freeze on East Coast wind projects that could help President Joe Biden’s administration meet its goal of generating 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, but so far only two wind farms are operating in U.S. waters .

We have a lot of momentum, said Susan Nickey, an executive at Hannon Armstrong Sustainable Infrastructure Capital, an investment firm specializing in renewable energy. But we and they must pave the way for real reform of permits and transmission.

While Louisiana waters won’t attract the massive deepwater projects slated off windswept New England, Edwards said his state can offer smaller projects a quicker start.

We need to start making progress much faster, he said. I believe that (allowing) it can probably be improved. There are steps that can be done at the same time rather than sequentially. There are so many things we can do, especially around clean energy.

Edwards Clean Energy

American Clean Power Association CEO Jason Grumet, left, discusses the potential of offshore wind energy in Louisiana waters with Governor John Bel Edwards at the Clean Power Conference in New Orleans on May 24, 2023.

Cozy wind energy

Like Biden, Edwards has crafted ambitious climate goals. The Edwards climate task force wants the state to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. The task force wants Louisiana to get at least 5,000 megawatts of its energy from offshore wind over the next 12 years.

Edwards’ enthusiasm for offshore wind has attracted the interest of developers. Last year, Orsted and RWE, the two major players in the offshore wind industry, highlighted Edwards’ support in letters urging BOEM to focus on federal permits near Louisiana.

The vote of confidence by European companies in Louisiana came as somewhat of a surprise because waters off Texas have stronger and more consistent wind speeds. But Texas leaders have proposed new rules that would limit the growth of renewable energy.

For Edwards, offshore wind means more than just cleaner energy. It means jobs.


A worker uses a welder as parts are being made for the 262-foot-long Eco Edison offshore wind support vessel at LaShip in Houma on Tuesday, April 4, 2023. (Photo by Brett Duke, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

A study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimated that a wind project built near Lake Charles could create about 4,470 construction jobs and generate $445 million in goods and services. Once built, the hypothetical wind farm would support 150 jobs and an annual $14 million input into the economy from operations, maintenance and materials.

Edwards noted that the skills and resources needed for offshore wind are already abundant in Louisiana. Several steel fabrication, engineering and shipbuilding companies that have served Louisiana’s oil and gas industry are shifting their focus to offshore wind projects.

Six Louisiana companies helped build the country’s first wind farm, a relatively small collection of five turbines in waters managed by the state of Rhode Islands. Built in 2016, the 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm could offer a clue to the size and scale of wind farms that could take shape in Louisiana waters over the next few years.

Block Island was brought in (with) Louisiana companies the lifting rigs, the manufacturers, the engineers, Edwards said. And we know it will work here in Louisiana.

Winds of change: How the Gulf of Mexico could be the next offshore wind farm

The new boundaries include a 102,000-acre area south of Lake Charles and two areas near Galveston, Texas.

A Houma shipyard is building a one-of-a-kind vessel to support the booming offshore wind energy on the East Coast.

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