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Feasibility of Ocean-Based Renewable Energy in the Gulf of Mexico

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This paper summarizes a comprehensive feasibility assessment of six offshore renewable energy sources in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) to potentially provide utility-scale electricity from the Outer Continental Shelf (federal waters) and state waters to land-based grids. The primary objective is to inform future energy planning. The authors evaluated offshore wind, wave energy, tidal energy, ocean-based solar photovoltaics (PV), ocean current, and ocean thermal energy conversion. Of these energy resources, offshore wind was the most viable option and was the focus of the second part of the study. The technical challenges of developing offshore wind in the GOM are discussed including hurricane design for turbines and substructures, as well as turbine solutions to overcome lower wind regimes. In addition, advantages to offshore wind development in the GOM are described including proximity to oil and gas supply chains. Economic analysis using established cost models at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory identified hypothetical project locations where net value of offshore wind was the highest, and the levelized cost of energy (LCOE) was calculated for three sites: Port Isabel, Port Arthur, and Pensacola. Offshore wind LCOE in the GOM was found to be higher than those in sites along the north and mid-Atlantic coasts, but decreasing cost trajectories indicate the possibility of economic viability for locations in Texas and west Louisiana after 2030. The extrapolated 2030 LCOE values range from $73/MWh (Site 1, Port Isabel) and $79/MWh (Site 3, Port Arthur) to $91/MWh (Site 5, Pensacola).
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Keywords: Gulf of Mexico; cost; offshore wind; renewable energy

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 1, 2020

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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