United States

United States

California to lease sites for 4.6GW floating offshore wind

West Coast state and federal government select two sites off California’s northern and central coast for offshore wind development

Offshore wind leases will be awarded off Morro Bay, a coastal city in central California (pic credit: Kjkolb)
Offshore wind leases will be awarded off Morro Bay, a coastal city in central California (pic credit: Kjkolb)

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California aims to launch its floating offshore wind sector by auctioning leases capable of supporting up to 4.6GW of offshore wind next year.

The US Department of the Interior and California Governor Gavin Newsom have identified two sites off the state’s northern and central coast for offshore wind development.

A roughly 1,033km2 area off Morro Bay on California’s central coast could support 3GW of offshore wind capacity, while an unspecified area off Humboldt Call area in the north of the state could support a further 1.6GW.

The announcement comes after years of work between the Departments of the Interior and Defense to find areas off central California that are compatible with the Department of Defense’s training and testing operations. The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will work with the Department of Defense to ensure long-term protection of military testing, training and operations, while pursuing new domestic clean energy resources, it stated.

BOEM and California governor Gavin Newsom will meet to discuss the areas next month. Environmental analyses and tribal consultations will need to be carried out for both areas.

The governments plan to hold a single lease auction for the Morro Bay and Humboldt Call sites in mid 2022.

They claim the offshore wind farms will be enough to power 1.6 million homes and create thousands of jobs.

Several major offshore wind developers – including Avangrid Renewables, Equinor, EDF an EDPR – all registered their interest in developing floating offshore wind off California following a BOEM request for proposals in 2019.

California’s deeper waters would likely necessitate floating foundations for offshore wind instead of fixed-bottom structures.

American Clean Power Association CEO Heather Zichal said: “California now has an opportunity to become a global leader in floating offshore wind technology.

“This agreement is a crucial first step for the industry, which will help unlock investment and will set up the West Coast for an even bigger floating offshore wind industry in the future.”

Earlier this year, a series of measures were introduced in California targeting offshore wind development.

A bill introduced in the California assembly calls for the state to target 10GW of offshore wind capacity by 2040, with an interim target of 3GW by 2030.

In his draft budget for the 2021-22 financial year, Governor Newsom proposed making $20 million available to spur development of offshore wind by accelerating permitting and upgrading port infrastructure. 

The West Coast state has already committed to a carbon-free energy mix by 2045, while the US targets 30GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030. California’s new offshore wind plans would contribute to both of these goals.

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