Report from Louisiana: Gulf Wind Farms

Posted: April 18, 2022 by Pat Austin in Uncategorized
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Photo by Joel Arbaje on Unsplash

By: Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – There is a bill in the Louisiana House of Representatives that would “allocate up to 25,000 acres of Louisiana offshore waters to be leased from the State by private, green energy companies to manufacture and build windmill turbines as an alternative to coal and natural gas production.”

Restrictions have kept lease limits to 5,000 acres which apparently is scaring wind farm investors away. Proponents of HB 165 say that the 25,000-acre limit greatly expands potential for investors to come in and build wind farms in the Gulf of Mexico.

Wind turbines are huge structures. A single wind turbine requires a great deal of real estate, even in the Gulf.

Although most Gulf of Mexico wind energy projects will eventually be built in federal waters, HB 165 co-author Rep. Joseph Orgeron “says the exploratory pilot projects will be built in state waters closer to the coast. Louisiana’s less-populated coastline allows more development within the 3 nautical miles of state waters that extend from shore.”

Chris Alexander, an attorney and conservative activist in Baton Rouge writing for The Hayride calls HB 165 “a monstrosity.” Citing several red flags in the bill, he says:

It would allocate up to 25,000 acres of Louisiana offshore waters to be leased from the State by private, green energy companies to manufacture and build windmill turbines as an alternative to coal and natural gas production. The first red flag in the bill is that it removes all legislative oversight and places plenary authority in the State Mineral and Energy Board to award any lease if it deems, in its sole discretion, that the lease is in Louisiana’s best interest. Why would the bill vest this enormous power in any board while removing traditional legislative oversight and accountability? Any objective observer would necessarily be suspicious of such a provision.

The bill also removes the traditional requirement that a minimum dollar amount and minimum percentage of revenue to be produced be advertised by the board as a minimum requirement for granting the lease. No legislative oversight, and no requirement of minimal revenue creation. What could possibly go wrong here?

See his post for more.

My first thought when I read about this development was “what happens in a hurricane?” Apparently there is a plan for that in that the turbines “feather in” their blades and wait for the storm to pass. Uh, sure. There is even discussion of floating turbines that can be hauled in prior to a storm.

My second thought was about migratory birds. It is common knowledge that the Louisiana Gulf Coast is a critical stop for over half a million shorebirds from 28 species migrating back and forth each winter. With our wetlands already in danger and providing less and less territory for the birds to refuel, how many will also be lost to windmills?  Collateral damage, says Erik Johnson of the Audubon society:

There are worse threats to birds. House cats, for example, are blamed for killing about 2.4 billion birds each year. Automobiles knock out 200 million more, and pesticides poison at least 2.7 million birds each year in the U.S. “Wind energy will really be a drop in the bucket by comparison,” Johnson said.

My next thought was about the shrimpers and fishermen who have relied on the Gulf waters for generations to make a living.  Since the Cajuns began arriving in Louisiana in the late 1700s, they have been shrimping and fishing these waters to make a living. These are people devoted to the land, people who won’t leave it no matter the worst hurricane, people who survive and who have battled the elements and the oil companies and the diminishing coast just to keep their livelihood viable. And now these fishermen have to worry about wind farms:

But the Gulf is also the source of 70% of the country’s shrimp. Of the more than 200 million pounds of shrimp netted in the Gulf each year, much of it was caught in the waters off the Louisiana and Texas coasts. These prime fishing waters happen to overlap with the areas of the Gulf that have the greatest potential for wind energy development.

Between the transmission lines laying on the sea floor, the turbines destroying nets, and the narrow navigational paths between turbines, the fishermen are concerned.

The agency has promoted the idea that wind farms won’t be any worse for fishing than the 3,500 offshore oil and gas structures already in the Gulf, not to mention 27,000 miles of underwater pipelines, most of which are inactive or abandoned.

[Acy Cooper of the Louisiana Shrimp Association] agrees shrimpers are accustomed to the Gulf’s industrial obstacle courses, but it doesn’t mean they like it. The introduction of offshore wind infrastructure increases navigational challenges.

HB 165 was approved without objection in the House Committee on Natural Resources and Environment last month and was moved on to the Senate where it will first be considered by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources before moving on to a full Senate vote.

In his Hayride piece, Chris Alexander offers a final parting shot against the bill:

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not make known another fact that the proponents of HB 165 would surely rather you not know:  Roughly 70% of the rare earth elements that are essential to the construction of wind turbines will be produced and harvested in China. How many Louisiana voters believe that we should become even more dependent on a foreign country for our energy needs, particularly a sworn adversary?

If the environmental concerns don’t bother you, further dependence on China should.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and at Medium; she is the author of Cane River Bohemia: Cammie Henry and her Circle at Melrose Plantation. Follow her on Instagram @patbecker25 and Twitter @paustin110.

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