The US government has advanced plans to sell seabed leases off the coast of California that it believes could support a combined 4.5GW of offshore wind capacity.
It plans to offer five areas in two regions – off the coast of Humboldt in the north of the state and off Morro Bay in central California – with a combined area of just over 1,500km2.
The three Morro Bay sites could support about 3GW of offshore wind capacity, auction regulator the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) believes, while the two Humboldt sites could support about 1.5GW.
It is due the US’s first seabed leasing round for offshore wind in the Pacific Ocean – where deep waters would necessitate the use of floating platforms, Heather Zichal, CEO of the American Clean Power Association, noted.
She said: “This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for California to become a global hub for floating offshore wind technology, creating thousands of good-paying American maritime and manufacturing jobs in California and beyond while boosting the domestic offshore wind supply chain.”
Liz Burdock, CEO of the Business Network for Offshore Wind added: “Floating markets are advancing quickly in Asia and Europe creating a race to develop our own capabilities and position the US as a global leader in this cutting-edge market.
“Advancing offshore wind on the West Coast unlocks floating offshore turbine technology and will start a modern-day gold rush to revolutionise California’s energy sector with offshore wind development, a reliable, clean, and baseload renewable energy, in a state battling wildfires, droughts, and increasing energy demands.”
BOEM has pre-qualified 23 companies to take part without any further action needed to confirm their interest in the tender. These companies include Avangrid, Clearway, EDF Renewables, EDP Renewables, Equinor, Japanese utility JERA, Northland Power, Ørsted, RWE, Shell and Wpd.
BOEM plans to publish a proposed sale notice in the federal register on 31 May, opening a 60-day comment period
It is seeking feedback on several lease stipulations, including benefits for bidders who commit to invest in programmes that support the US offshore wind workforce and requirements that bidders enter into a labour agreement ahead of construction or engage with tribes and underserved communities.
BOEM also intends to carry out lease sales for Oregon, the central Atlantic region, the Gulf of Maine and the Gulf of Mexico before 2025.
The US aims to have 30GW of offshore wind power capacity by 2030. Since entering office, the Biden administration has announced key permitting approvals for several offshore wind farms and begun environmental surveys for new offshore sites.