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Opportunities Abound for Offshore Wind, Solar Power Investment

Location, workforce prime the state’s renewable energy sector

Opportunities Abound for Offshore Wind, Solar Power Investment

Several well-established offshore oil and gas companies from Louisiana are contributing to developments in offshore wind energy. Gulf Island Fabrication furnished the four-legged, latticed foundation turbine platforms at the Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island. (Credit: LED)

With the potential to generate thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in Gross Domestic Product, wind and solar power present a unique opportunity to benefit the economy and the environment simultaneously. Louisiana is taking the lead in harnessing that potential.

The state’s location on the Gulf of Mexico and sunny skies make it a natural fit, and its skilled energy and offshore workforce add another unique advantage. 

The state already has its hands on existing wind installations. More than a half dozen experienced offshore oil and gas contractors from Louisiana played essential roles in planting Block Island Wind Farm’s massive turbines in the waters off the coast of Rhode Island.

There are nearly 60 solar power-related companies – including manufacturers, installers and developers – currently doing business in the state. The sector continues to expand, notably with Entergy nearly tripling its total renewable generating capacity with new solar facilities, while Louisiana’s largest solar farm is set to be completed in 2023. 

Offshore Wind: Power in Momentum

Louisiana was the first Gulf South state to establish net-zero greenhouse gas emission goals and the only state in the region to have set forth a Climate Action Plan for offshore wind capacity – aiming for five gigawatts by 2035, which is enough to power more than 800,000 homes. 

The federal government selected the first two areas for offshore wind development in the Gulf of Mexico in November, clearing the way for offshore wind turbines to begin spinning in the Gulf by 2030. A 174,000-acre area south of Lake Charles was selected as one of the two sites.

Meanwhile, there is already plenty of innovation underway. LM Wind is a leading global blade manufacturer whose facility in New Orleans East is the only wind engineering technology center in the country. And now, Gulf Wind Technology bills itself as the leading wind turbine rotor technology specialist in the country. The new company is based at the Avondale Global Gateway (the former Avondale Shipyard), a railroad-connected property that spans 254 acres along the New Orleans Mississippi River waterfront. It’s a perfect example of a compound that is turnkey-ready and could serve as a staging ground for the development, production and transport of offshore wind components.

To help facilitate this spirit of collaboration, the University of New Orleans, in partnership with the UNO Research & Technology Foundation, announced the launch of the Louisiana Wind Energy Hub at UNO. It will be located at The Beach at UNO, the university’s research and technology park. The hub will offer a professional certification program and a scholarship program awarding select UNO engineering students who take coursework relevant to offshore wind energy.

Louisiana’s position on the Gulf of Mexico offers shallow, warm waters with smaller average wave heights. Louisiana has a well-established industrial infrastructure and provides dock space needed to handle incoming goods. The state also has the existing facilities needed to convert steel and composites into finished products such as blades and foundations, and the prowess for offshore installation.  

But the biggest steps are perhaps the initial ones that have already been taken. Louisiana is now in motion toward what could be one of the state’s largest economic boosts in years to come. And as the wind teaches us, there’s power in momentum.

Solar Farms Supplying Businesses and Consumers

In January, Lightsource bp began construction on the largest solar farm in Louisiana on 1,800 acres near New Roads.  The company will own and operate the facility and sell the clean, renewable energy it generates to McDonald’s and eBay through power purchase agreements. 

The $300 million, 345 megawatt (DC) Ventress facility is expected to be completed in late 2023. Once the project is running, 450,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide will be abated each year, the equivalent to emissions from 99,000 cars.

Meanwhile, one of the state’s main power suppliers continues to add solar power to its grid. In 2022, Entergy announced it’s adding carbon-free power from four solar facilities across the state, two in St. James Parish and one each in Allen and Washington parishes. Several of those sites are expected to begin delivering power to customers in 2024.

Amazon is planning a pair of solar farms in Louisiana as part of the online giant’s efforts to be entirely dependent on renewable energy by 2025. The company announced in 2022 that it would open a solar farm in St. Landry Parish by 2024, capable of generating 100 megawatts of power, enough energy to power 20,000 homes and businesses. A 200-megawatt solar farm in Morehouse Parish is set to open by 2023.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management designated 74,275 acres off Louisiana’s coast for offshore wind development in October. The area is capable of powering 740,000 homes. The state’s location on the Gulf of Mexico make it a natural fit, and its skilled energy and offshore workforce adds another unique advantage. (BOEM photo)