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The next Texas energy boom is in offshore wind power-not oil

By Laura Morton

The way we power our world is changing, and as is always the case, Texas has been at the forefront of that change. The Lone Star State has a history of seeing the next boom coming, and that is why it's always front and center whenever energy is thriving.

Two recent reports show Texas is once again primed to lead the way.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) just released two studies looking at the potential for offshore wind energy in the Gulf of Mexico. They found that Texas, specifically the areas up near Port Arthur and south of Corpus Christi, is best suited for development along the Gulf Coast.

The reports find the Gulf of Mexico possesses approximately 15 percent of the gross offshore wind energy potential of the U.S. and 25 percent of the country's technical offshore wind energy potential. The study also estimates that a single 600-MW offshore wind farm in the Gulf of Mexico, with a commercial operation date of 2030, would bring some 4,470 jobs and $445 million in gross domestic product (GDP) during construction.

These findings echo a recent American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) report that finds offshore wind could create 83,000 new jobs by 2030.

NREL and BOEM found that along the Gulf Coast, South Texas has the highest average wind speeds and therefore the greatest technical offshore wind resource potential by capacity. When they determined the sites with the highest net value, which is the best indicator for economic potential, they found the best sites to be off Houston, south of Corpus Christi, and on the Texas-Louisiana border.

Generating power using offshore wind is proving to be a popular choice. According to a recent poll, over 80 percent of U.S. voters across party lines support offshore wind energy.

The potential benefits of the offshore wind development are laid out in the American Wind Energy Association's report, "U.S. Offshore Wind Economic Impact Assessment." Meeting state targets set in other parts of the country will require constructing thousands of offshore wind turbines, and that means well-paying jobs for dozens of occupations, including welders, wind technicians, electricians, longshoremen, vessel operators, and many more positions. States up and down the East Coast have made substantial offshore wind commitments as they look to supply many of the country's largest population centers with competitively priced, reliable, clean energy. From Massachusetts to Virginia, these pledges now total nearly 26,000 megawatts (MW), enough to power millions of American homes and help keep utility costs stable for residents.

This hardly means that Texas will give up its position as energy's Top Dog. In fact, Texas is already the undisputed leader in American wind power. The state has already developed nearly 30,000 MW of wind capacity (almost three times as much as any other state) and more than 25,000 Texans work in the wind industry. But most of that wind power is currently out in the panhandle, the West Texas plains, and South Texas. These reports indicate the potential for so much more.

As the world's energy supply diversifies toward renewable energy, particularly offshore wind, the vast resources in the gulf are poised to capitalize on the nascent, but enormous, emerging offshore wind industry.

There is another Texas-sized energy boom on the horizon, and Texas has the resources and skills to tap into it.

Laura Morton is the senior director of Policy & Regulatory Affairs, Offshore at the American Wind Energy Association (www.AWEA.org).