Legislation to allow larger offshore wind energy projects in Louisiana gained approval from the House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment, expanding the maximum acreage per lease from 5,000 to 25,000.
The committee voted unanimously this week to approve House Bill 165, sponsored by Rep. Jerome Zeringue, R-Houma, and expand current limits on individual oil-and-gas leases from a maximum of 5,000 to up to 25,000 acres for wind energy leases.
“We’ve spoken to industry and based upon the availability and opportunity that presents itself in the gulf, industry basically feels that … 15 (thousand acres) to 25 (thousand acres) … is a reasonable expectation to get started,” Zeringue said. “It’s typically about 1,000 acres per turbine, although as technologies improve, you can generate more with less … but anywhere between 500 (acres) to 1,000 (acres) is what we saw, so that’s kind of why it set in on that.”
Co-sponsor Rep. Joseph Orgeron, R-Larose, said most offshore wind development occurs in federal waters beyond the horizon, but Louisiana’s less populated coast makes it an ideal location for pilot projects closer to shore in state waters.
“The companies that are interested in exploring the Gulf of Mexico as an offshore wind energy source want to do it in state waters,” Orgeron said. “So it was very important that we first of all increase the lease sizes, because if you’re doing oil and gas you only need one well, one point place to produce, but for offshore wind, you need a form, and you have to space out the turbines appropriately.”
Orgeron also spoke about Louisiana’s unique history with offshore oil-and-gas development, and how specialized workers in that field are well positioned to help develop offshore wind.
“I quickly realized the skills and the assets needed to deploy offshore wind, or any kind of heavy large offshore infrastructure, required the people and the capabilities that have grown here on the Gulf Coast,” he said. “They literally could not do the current offshore wind turbines that are in operation right now without companies from Louisiana.”
In addition to expanding lease acreage, HB 165 also gives the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) authority to set royalties or payments from the wind energy leases.
DNR Secretary Thomas Harris told the committee Wednesday he has fielded interest from wind energy developers in recent years, but the current lease size restriction has left them disappointed.
“There was one person that was interested and based on the 5,000-acre limitation he’d have to do eight separate leases,” Harris said. “That’s just not a good way to do business.
“This allows us the ability to look at various forms of reimbursement for the state,” he said. “I think it’s a big improvement.”
Zeringue stressed encouraging wind energy development provides benefits in terms of generating power and creating jobs. He cited recent studies that showed wind energy tops other forms of alternative energy in job creation, estimated at nearly 5,000 jobs per project.
Orgeron also noted that HB 165 only sets general parameters for the emerging industry to allow the DNR to move forward with some flexibility on how revenue is produced.
“This is not picking the curtains or the drapes for the house,” he said. “This is basically getting the lot and the foundation settled for a good start for us to move forward.”
This article was originally posted on Louisiana Legislature moves to make large offshore wind projects possible