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A massive wind farm project is being proposed along the coast of Galveston

Gabriel C. Pérez

President Joe Biden announced a new program on Wednesday that would develop offshore wind power in the Gulf of Mexico to address climate change. The Department of the Interior proposed two Wind Energy Areas and one sits off the Galveston coast.

The area covers 546,645 acres, which could produce enough energy to power 2.3 million homes, according to the Bureau of Ocean Management. The second area is off the coast of Lake Charles, Louisiana, which would cover 188,023 miles, producing enough energy to power 799,000 homes.

Luke Metzger, executive director of Environment Texas, said he's been advocating for offshore winds in the Gulf of Mexico for decades.

“I’ve been wanting to see this happen for a long time and yesterday’s announcement was thrilling to see that the federal government is finally moving forward,” he said.

Metzger said years ago there was a proposed project called The Galveston Offshore Winds that never got developed.

President Biden set a goal to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 as an effort to create a clean environment and bring more jobs. Metzger said an offshore wind lease in the New York area brought in more than $4 billion – one of the biggest revenues from offshore leasing in American History.

"We know that there is big money available, and if the state of Texas did its own leasing it could get that significant revenue."

Currently, there are only two offshore wind projects operating in the United States. Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island produces 30 megawatts of electricity and the Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Project off the coast of Virginia produces 12 megawatts of electricity.

"Offshore wind has a great potential in Texas," Brad Jones, president of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which manages Texas' main power grid, told The Texas Tribune on Thursday. "It will take some time to develop, and that time will be based on how quickly we can put together port facilities, the specialized ships that are necessary and train our labor force to achieve this type of development. It is new for the U.S."

Wind energy's contributions to the Texas power grid vary depending on where, and how hard, the wind blows across the state. On Tuesday, when Texas hit a new record for energy consumption, wind and solar power combined to provide 25% of the energy on the grid, ERCOT said. On July 11, when ERCOT asked Texans to conserve electricity because demand threatened to exceed supply, wind generation dropped to less than 10% of its overall capacity.

ERCOT forecasters said they typically don't expect a lot of wind energy during hot summer days because during summer winds tend to be stronger at night.

Offshore wind provides much steadier energy production than wind farms on land in Texas, Jones said. With the "extraordinary" growth of Texas' population and economy, Jones said "we have to keep pace with that development."

"So having an additional resource that can provide generation to Texans to keep the lights on is a value to all of us," Jones said.

Copyright 2022 Houston Public Media News 88.7. To see more, visit Houston Public Media News 88.7.

Ashley Brown
Ashley Brown is a senior editor for All Things Considered.
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