Louisiana’s Future in Offshore Wind: Takeaways from Louisiana Wind Week

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Last week, the Louisiana Governor’s Office hosted Louisiana Wind Week 2021 to assess Louisiana’s future in offshore wind energy development. Louisiana Wind Week followed the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)’s first Gulf of Mexico Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force meeting, which was held on June 15.

The first-day session focused on Federal and State administration priorities and regulatory overviews of offshore wind leasing. Included on the panel were representatives from both Federal and State agencies, including BOEM, the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources, and the Louisiana Department of Economic Development.

Louisiana Department of Natural Resources Secretary Tom Harris emphasized that, because of the decades of offshore oil and gas exploration and development, Louisiana already has the expertise, infrastructure, supply chains, shipyards, ports, and experienced workforce vital to developing offshore wind energy, putting the State in an optimal economic position.

Additionally, BOEM Gulf of Mexico Regional Director Michael Celata, discussed the four stages of BOEM’s renewable energy authorization process, which include (1) planning and analysis, (2) leasing, (3) site assessment, and (4) construction and operations. BOEM is currently in the planning and analysis stage, and recently put out a Request for Interest (RFI) in commercial leasing for wind power development on the GOM Outer Continental Shelf. The panelists stressed the importance of public comment to the RFI, which is due July 26.

The webinar series continued on day two with presentations and discussions focusing on environmental impacts in the GOM as a result of offshore wind energy development and how to mitigate such impacts. Panelists includes representatives from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

The third day focused on engaging existing GOM users and understanding their concerns. Emphasis was placed on the goal of “mutual coexistence” between all users of the GOM region, including developers of wind energy.

During the presentation, Daniel Ingold, Program Manager at Jacobs Engineering Group, gave a presentation on wind power and provided a broad overview of what wind farms in the GOM could look like. Foundations for offshore wind turbines can be either fixed or floating. The fixed foundations are used in water depths less than 200 feet, whereas the floating foundations can be used in greater depths. Thus, it is more likely we will see floating foundations used in the GOM. Another advantage of floating foundations is that they can be constructed dockside then towed to position and repositioned. Grid patterns are typically used for the layout of these wind farms, with significant space between each turbine due to logistics and wake effect. The turbines are connected to each other by transmission cables, with one major export cable that goes to the shore. Most of the cables are buried, but in areas where the cable cannot be buried, due to situations like pipeline crossings, the cables will be covered with cast iron short section covers and concrete mattresses.

Day four focused on the transmission process and the various roles, processes, and key issues involved in connecting offshore wind to users. Joshua Gange, Renewable Energy Program Specialist at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), provided an overview of the offshore wind transmission network. The transmission process is complex due to the number of parties involved, the varying roles each party undertakes, and the unique characteristics of the Gulf, among other factors.

The final day of Louisiana Wind Week placed an emphasis on the supply chain capacity for offshore wind development in Louisiana. The session consisted of two panel discussions focused on different aspects of the supply chain. A main takeaway from both panels was that Louisiana has a large competitive advantage in all areas of wind energy development due to its years of offshore oil and gas expertise.

Offshore wind development in the GOM region is still in the planning stage. Louisiana Wind Week 2021 highlighted many of the technical, legal, and socioeconomic issues that state and federal agencies will face in the coming years.  Stay tuned for additional updates on the Energy Law Blog.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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