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Louisiana businesses bet big on offshore wind power

Louisiana is one of the nation's leading oil and gas producers, and the state is now getting seriously into wind power as well.

By Zach Bartscherer and Courtney Durham Shane, Pew Charitable Trusts

The state of Louisiana, long known as a major U.S. energy producer, is looking to extend that energy reputation well into the 21st century by nurturing a growing industry with immense economic potential: offshore wind.

As part of that effort, the state recently held its first-ever Wind Energy Week, a conference that brought together a diverse group of local business leaders and academics, port authorities, state lawmakers, environmental advocates, and global offshore wind developers.
In meetings and presentations in Baton Rouge and New Orleans, the group discussed the transformative potential of the offshore wind industry in Louisiana, spotlighting companies in the state with the expertise and capabilities to supply the components and services needed to harness offshore wind. Representatives from local companies shared their success stories building out offshore wind projects in the northeastern U.S., and explored collaborative opportunities for further involvement in projects along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts.
For example, eight Louisiana-based businesses were pivotal to the development and installation of the nation’s first commercial wind farm, the Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island, in 2016. From environmental impact survey work to the fabrication and installation of Louisiana-built turbine foundations by local mariners, the success of that project relied on Louisianans and their offshore expertise.

Similar opportunities should soon abound. The domestic offshore wind industry has more than two dozen active offshore wind leases in federal waters, which means more chances for state and regional companies to supply the goods and services necessary to build them out.
Many Wind Energy Week participants said that Louisiana›s strengths with other offshore industries give the state a running start to capitalize on the nascent offshore wind energy supply chain.
And data supports that: A recent analysis by the global energy developer RWE and the economic development nonprofit Greater New Orleans Inc. estimates that more than 125 Louisiana businesses are already or preparing to start producing some of the roughly 8,000 components that go into making a single offshore wind turbine—from 100-yard-long blades and protective resins, to the nuts and bolts needed to hold the turbine together.

Conference participants also noted Louisiana’s burgeoning offshore wind workforce readiness, with businesses, universities, and technical and community colleges preparing the next wave of workers for the industry. Leaders at the University of New Orleans, Nunez and Delgado community colleges, Louisiana State University, and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette are offering curriculums and using innovative technology to train students for the workforce, while also collaborating with developers to create a job pipeline for the emerging industry.
Louisiana Wind Energy Week also marked the kickoff for the state's offshore wind supply chain study, a comprehensive review of the state's potential to capitalize on its supply chain advantages and further advance its involvement with the industry. In its 2023 session, the state Legislature passed a resolution that called for the Louisiana Department of Economic Development, in consultation with the Louisiana Workforce Commission, to evaluate readiness for attracting offshore wind energy supply chain industries to the state. The insights that emerged during Wind Energy Week and further stakeholder engagement will directly inform the study.
Louisiana has an opportunity to extend its legacy as an energy powerhouse by adding offshore wind and its supply chain to the mix. This multibillion-dollar industry is eager for a domestic supply chain, which can be built in part upon the goods and services that come from Louisiana.

Zach Bartscherer and Courtney Durham Shane are senior officers at The Pew Charitable Trusts and work on the energy modernization project. This article originally appeared on The Pew Charitable Trusts website (www.pewtrusts.org).