U.S. moves to expand offshore wind beyond the Northeast

(Reuters) – The Biden administration on Thursday unveiled fresh steps toward building offshore wind farms in waters off the coasts of Massachusetts, the Carolinas and in the Gulf of Mexico.

The announcement is the government’s latest in an aggressive push to expand the nascent ocean industry to every U.S. coastline in a bid to wean the power sector off fossil fuels and address climate change.

To date, most U.S. development of offshore wind has taken place in the Atlantic Ocean off the coasts of Northeastern states. But the administration is eager to site projects in other areas, including the Southern Atlantic and West coasts.

In a statement, the Department of the Interior said it would propose an offshore wind auction in a 127,865-acre area off the coast of the Carolinas. The area could be divided into three leases and has the potential for enough energy to power more than half a million homes.

The public will be able to comment on the proposal for 60 days. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, a division of Interior, could finalize a sale early next year.

The agency also said it would invite the public to weigh in on the potential for wind energy development in a 30 million-acre area of the Gulf of Mexico. The area stretches from just west of the Mississippi River to the Texas-Mexico border.

The move is an early-stage effort to consider offshore wind in the Gulf, which is home to the nation’s biggest offshore oil and gas drilling industry. Before deciding on whether to lease in the Gulf, BOEM would have to conduct an environmental review and seek input from the public and a government task force set up to consider offshore wind in the region.

Finally, the administration said it would kick off an environmental review for a project off the coast of Massachusetts, Mayflower Wind. The wind farm will have up to 147 turbines with the potential to power 800,000 homes.

Mayflower Wind is a joint venture between Shell New Energies U.S. LLC and Ocean Winds, a joint venture between EDP Renewables and ENGIE.

(Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)