Studies on the renewable energy potential of the outer continental shelf in the US sector of the Gulf of Mexico have found significant potential to develop offshore wind
The studies were undertaken by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the US.
Offshore Renewable Energy Technologies in the Gulf of Mexico analysed different offshore renewable energy technology to determine which are best suited for development in the Gulf of Mexico. The study looked at wind, wave, tidal, current, solar, deepwater source cooling and hydrogen and found that offshore wind showed the greatest resource potential and is the most mature technology of those analysed for the region.
Of all the technologies, offshore wind had the largest quantity of technical resource potential with 508 GW covering all Gulf of Mexico states, although Texas and Louisiana show the highest overall technical offshore wind resource potential.
Once offshore wind was identified as the leading technology for Gulf of Mexico application, BOEM and NREL further analysed the economic feasibility of offshore wind for selected sites in the Gulf of Mexico.
In Offshore Wind in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico: Regional Economic Modeling & Site-Specific Analyses, the site-specific economic analysis indicated that a single offshore wind project could support approximately 4,470 jobs and US$445M in gross domestic product (GDP) during construction and an ongoing 150 jobs and US$14M annually from operation and maintenance. The results were based on a 600-MW project at a reference site with a commercial operation date of 2030.
A qualitative assessment of the commercial readiness and commercial cost projections was also conducted for each technology and offshore wind has the highest readiness levels. However, the report said that although there is more than 16 GW of offshore wind deployed around the globe, additional technology development would be needed for the Gulf of Mexico to develop and validate hurricane-proof turbine designs and to optimise rotors for the lower wind regimes found in the region.
The authors of the reports said offshore wind’s future in the region would primarily depend on improving the economics over the next decade. “Based on global trends, the economics of offshore wind are improving rapidly, making economic deployment of offshore wind turbines in the Gulf of Mexico likely by 2030,” they said.
“During this timeframe, new offshore wind technologies will be needed to optimise energy capture in the lower wind regimes of the Gulf of Mexico, to better understand hurricane risks, and to design wind turbines suitable for hurricane-prone areas. “
The authors of the reports said the potential for developing offshore wind to serve loads in the Gulf of Mexico is realistic in the next 10-15 years and will be explored later.
“None of these challenges are insurmountable, but all will require some additional investment in research, development, and deployment to adapt the technology and gain the experience needed for commercial acceptance,” BOEM said, noting that there may also be “significant cost benefits” to help offset possible cost increases resulting from these challenges, including better turbine access, shallow water siting, lower labour costs and direct access to the existing industrial supply chains of the oil and gas industry. “These benefits may lower capital costs, operation and maintenance costs, and the cost of fabrication and installation,” BOEM concluded.
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