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Gulf of Mexico Well-Positioned for Offshore Wind Projects

By Cas Biekmann | Thu, 05/07/2020 - 14:08

US–based National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) conducted two studies funded by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and reported that the Gulf of Mexico is more than suitable for offshore wind project development. Even though the studies focused on the US, similar conditions and advantages can be perceived in Mexico as well. As wind energy becomes cheaper to produce, the study suggests a wealth of opportunities.

Opportunities marked by NREL’s assessment on the US side of the Gulf of Mexico are plenty. The results can be found in two studies called ‘Offshore Wind in the US Gulf of Mexico: Regional Economic Modeling and Site-Specific Analyses’ and ‘Survey and Assessment of the Ocean Renewable Energy Resources in the US Gulf of Mexico.’ The gulf boasts shallow water that is warm to the touch and wave heights that are relatively shallow. An advantage is that projects can easily be built close to existing infrastructure for oil and gas projects lowering investment costs. There are some risks in the area, since exposure to hurricanes during some seasons and softer winds in others, combined with a softer soil could complicate the conditions for project developers.

Various potential renewable energy sources were assessed in order to provide energy for the five US gulf states: Florida, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi. Wind was found to have the highest potential, reaching 508GW. NREL said that this was twice the energy the five states currently consume. Nonetheless, economic viability is considered a stumbling block, although this would be resolved by dropping prices for project development within 10 years. Economic feasibility of wind projects was determined to be possible by 2030. The studies did assume that new technology better equipped to deal with hurricanes and lower winds would already be available at this point. A potential project could contribute to 4,470 jobs during the construction phase and 150 extra jobs for operating the project once finished.

Oil and gas industries are incorporating more and more renewable projects in their portfolios and they might be interested in taking up the challenge, suggested NREL. “As we seek to diversify the US energy supply using ocean renewable resources, we are finding that the existing oil and gas industries in the Gulf are able to leverage their vast ocean-based capabilities to expand their businesses and capitalize on these new energy opportunities,” said Walt Musial, Lead Researcher and Author at NREL.

For Mexico, the study is of interest since many of the conditions mentioned in the report directly apply to the country, as well. Mexico has existing oil and gas infrastructure on its side of the Gulf and climate conditions are very similar, yielding the same benefits and risks in regards to hurricanes and lower winds. If Mexico keeps enhancing its competitiveness in terms of prices, it could probably benefit from offshore wind project development sooner than the US, as suggested by figures provided by the Energy Institute at Haas’ assessment of profitability of renewables in Mexico.

The data used in this article was sourced from:  
NREL, BOEM, Energy Institute at Haas
Photo by:  
David Will
Cas Biekmann Cas Biekmann Journalist and Industry Analyst