Offshore Wind: Separate Roads for the US and MexicoBy María José Goytia | Thu, 07/28/2022 - 09:42
The Biden administration will pursue the development of offshore wind energy in the Gulf of Mexico as part of its plan to address climate change and consolidate the US as a leading renewable energy powerhouse. In Mexico, however, offshore wind remains a distant prospect.
The US Gulf of Mexico’s first offshore wind farms will be developed off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana. The 283,280ha of offshore wind farms are projected to produce enough energy to power around 3 million homes. The new proposed offshore wind areas in the Gulf would represent the first time that wind energy is produced in the Gulf, which is traditional a hub for oil and gas production.
President Biden will also direct Interior Secretary Deb Haaland to advance wind energy off the Mid- and Southern Atlantic Coasts, as well as along Florida’s Gulf Coast, although the White House did not announce any concrete plans to develop such projects.
Currently, 23GW of offshore wind project capacity are under construction in several countries, like the US, China, the UK, the Netherlands, Taiwan, France and Germany. The US has lagged behind Europe and China in boosting offshore wind within its energy transition strategy. The Biden administration therefore aims to spur investment in offshore wind to strengthen the US energy transition.
Mexico Remains Out of the Offshore Wind
The US' recent push for offshore wind energy contrasts with Mexico's inaction to take advantage of the vast wind resources that could boost its renewable energy industry. Renewable energy on the utility scale has faced a massive stagnation in the Mexican energy market due to the government’s policy shift.
In comparison to conditions in the US Gulf of Mexico, the Mexican coasts of the gulf have different wind conditions, which inhibits replicating Biden’s bet on Texas’ coast. However, studies have shown Mexico could have interesting potential to develop offshore wind power production in different regions.
Research from Dr. Christian Appendini at UNAM showed that Yucatan has appealing potential to develop offshore wind projects in the future, where wind energy companies have been seeking to develop projects since 2008. Appendini explained that due to its shallow depth, the Yucatan continental shelf is an exceptional, world-class environment for the construction of offshore wind farms. Mexico also has offshore wind potential in Tamaulipas, where studies show that the state alone has the potential to install up to 29GW.
Nevertheless, offshore wind presents certain challenges, like the fishing community, the protection of marine flora and fauna, the high initial cost of underwater transmission lines and the risks that natural disasters pose. Therefore, while the potential for development is a reality, its feasibility remains low. Alejandro Cobos, General Manager, Notus Energía México, explained that offshore wind in Mexico has very little chance of happening in the next few years.
“Mexican seas have adverse characteristics for the installation of wind turbines. Most are in hurricane zones. In the Yucatan Peninsula, coral reef reserves are protected. Offshore wind generation becomes an option when you have already finished the land area for the installation of turbines but in Mexico, we still have a lot of land to explore. In addition, it is much cheaper to invest in the terrestrial electrical transmission network that allows the viability of larger traditional wind projects,” concluded Cobos.