Decades of experience in offshore energy have positioned Louisiana to play a significant role in growing the U.S. offshore wind industry. Louisiana’s workforce and expertise can be leveraged to facilitate wind projects in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as support project development across the country. In recognition of this opportunity, state government, the private sector, colleges and universities, economic development organizations, and others are proactively working to prepare Louisiana for the growth of offshore wind and attract new investment to the state. This brief provides insights from a C2ES roundtable held in March 2023 in New Orleans that explored the future of offshore wind in Louisiana. It highlights the state’s existing assets that can equip it to play a unique role in the industry, the needs that must be met to enable that role, and the uncertainties that must be addressed to better define the offshore wind potential in the state.
Maximize the Opportunities of Louisiana’s Existing Assets: Workforce, Ports, Shipping and Vessel Operations, and Manufacturing
- The state should conduct a study to evaluate transferrable skills in Louisiana’s existing workforce (especially in the oil and gas sector) and how these skills correspond to the skills needed to succeed in the offshore wind industry.
- Louisiana’s state universities and Community and Technical College System, in collaboration with companies across the offshore wind industry, should create short-term certificate programs that can be ‘stacked’ to provide an alternative to the current higher education system.
- State and local governments should conduct outreach programs to encourage young people in Louisiana to enter skilled trades, with a focus on marginalized communities.
- The state should conduct a state-level mapping and strategic planning exercise that maps out the unique advantages and roles each of Louisiana’s ports could play in the offshore wind industry.
- Congress should provide additional funds through MARAD to support ports making infrastructure improvements specifically to accommodate offshore wind.
- The state should create an education and outreach program for vessel companies with operations in Louisiana about opportunities in offshore wind industry and ways to get involved.
- Congress or the U.S. Department of Energy should create a funding opportunity for shipbuilding companies to de-risk early investments into vessel construction, including minimum payments to offset unplanned downtime and/or loan guarantees.
- The federal government should create grant and loan programs to help offshore wind component manufacturers increase their production capacity, for instance by integrating automated processes into their manufacturing facilities.
Meet the Needs of Louisiana’s Offshore Wind Industry: Create a Long-Term Project Pipeline, Utilize Effective Community Engagement and Benefits Sharing, and De-Risk Supply Chain Investments
- BOEM should announce forthcoming lease areas on a predictable timeline to reduce uncertainty in the industry.
- The state, in consultation with the industry, should create accessible outreach materials to educate the general public in Louisiana on offshore wind. These materials should be written in layman’s terms and highlight costs and benefits.
- BOEM and the state government should work to aggregate information collected from stakeholder engagement exercises conducted by companies pre-leasing to be able to have winning bidders use upon granting of a lease.
- The Loan Programs Office or Department of Defense should provide loan guarantees or minimum payments for companies engaged in the offshore wind supply chain to de-risk their up-front capital investments.
Address Remaining Uncertainties, Including Planning for End Use, Exploring Environmental Considerations, and Managing for the Gulf of Mexico’s Unique Conditions
- Louisiana should formalize the 5 GW offshore wind procurement goal by 2030 established in the Climate Action Plan into a procurement target supported by legislation.
- Louisiana should engage in MISO’s Long-Range Transmission Planning process, with particular emphasis on connecting offshore wind power to users.
- The Louisiana Public Service Commission should open a docket on offshore wind as soon as possible to consider whether and how to connect new projects that may be built in the Lake Charles lease area.
- The state should conduct preemptive transmission planning study for offshore wind.
- Louisiana should work with Texas to create a pool of funds that can support research into wildlife populations in the Gulf of Mexico and strategies to reduce impacts to these populations.
- State regulations relating to offshore wind development should set best management practices for operations, including setting vessel speeds and wildlife monitoring.
- NOAA should fund studies to map migratory bird pathways in the Gulf more precisely to support more wildlife-conscious design and deployment.
- Congress and the Louisiana state legislature should each pass legislation that would direct a dedicated percentage of revenue from Louisiana offshore wind leases in both federal and state waters to coastal restoration efforts.
- NOAA should fund hurricane studies to map conditions at the level of granularity specific to offshore wind power generation to support design for the Gulf.
Nationally, momentum is accelerating for offshore wind, with more than 40 GW in the pipeline for development by 2040, and commitments across states covering both project procurement and supply chain development. Louisiana has a tremendous opportunity to both develop its own offshore wind projects and supply vessels, components, inputs, and skilled workers to support projects around the country. Across Louisiana, policymakers, communities, local businesses, educational providers, and economic development organizations are excited about the opportunity offshore wind could bring and are preparing for the industry’s growth in the state. The state’s legacy of expertise in offshore energy development, shipbuilding, and manufacturing could allow its companies and workers to lead the nation in developing this nascent industry. However, in order to realize its potential, significant up-front investments are required to prepare the region’s infrastructure, manufacturing capacity, and workforce to accommodate the unique needs of the offshore wind industry. Successfully preparing for offshore wind in Louisiana will necessitate addressing a number of uncertainties, including the need for a long-term project pipeline, as well as a long-term plan to connect power to users in a way that is equitable, efficient, and prescient. With strategic planning and proactive investments, Louisiana can capitalize on several key advantages to be a global leader in the offshore wind industry.
View more from the C2ES Regional Roundtable series here.