The Gulf of Mexico: the Perfect Place for a Wind Farm?
The US is planning to install a tidal wave of new offshore wind turbines in the Gulf of Mexico. Not only will this wind farm compete on cost with electricity markets in the region, but it adds the prospect of job creation in America as the US economy recovers from the impact of COVID-19.
This wind farm would provide electricity for coastal states such as Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida where energy-guzzling appliances such as air conditioning are extremely popular. The installation of a sustainable energy source would provide large amounts of electricity that these states need without detriment to the environment.
While other nations have been turning to offshore wind farms for a source of sustainable energy, the US only has one offshore wind farm off Rhode Island. According to the Department of Energy, offshore wind has the potential to generate more than 2,000 GW of capacity per year, nearly double the nation’s current electricity use. With that in mind, if 1% of that potential is captured, nearly 6.5 million homes could be powered by offshore wind energy within the next decade.
“We are in an incredible growth period,” said Laura Morton, a senior director at the American Wind Energy Association in Washington, D.C. She cited a recent white paper from the Special Initiative for Offshore Wind, projecting a $70-billion business pipeline in the U.S. by 2030. The Gulf of Mexico presents many advantages as a site for an offshore wind farm from its shallow, warm waters, smaller than average wave heights and proximity to the existing offshore oil and gas infrastructure.
Pioneering turbine technology by 2030
Two recent studies conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), which was funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), have given promising results for the future of offshore wind energy in the Gulf region.
The first NERL study, concerning offshore renewable energy in the Gulf of Mexico found that wind energy would be the most technically feasible and provide twice the energy consumed in the Gulf states.
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This not only represents a huge step for the development of offshore wind farms in America, but the environmental conditions of the Gulf mean there will be huge advancements in offshore wind farm technology. The turbines will be developed to withstand challenges of hurricane exposure, lower winds and softer soils thus creating the need for pioneering new technologies to withstand this.
With this adaptive technology in hand, NREL forecasts that offshore wind farms could be viable by 2030.
The second study conducted by the NREL showed the economic benefits of this new wind farm, indicating it could create approximately 4,470 jobs with $445 million in gross domestic product (GDP) during its construction and an ongoing 150 jobs with $14 million GDP annually from operation and maintenance labour, materials, and services.
With many countries fearing recession due to the coronavirus pandemic, the installation of this innovative new offshore wind farm will be economically beneficial to the US, creating jobs whilst installing a new, sustainable energy source.