Energy Commission Sees Offshore Wind as Promising Renewable Energy Resource

Offshore wind has yet to play the significant role in the California’s renewable energy goals, but it may be a tool the state uses to meet its long-term energy and carbon reduction goals.

"As California moves forward to meet 50 percent of the state's energy needs with clean, renewable energy by 2030, wind power will play an important role,” said  David Hochschild, commissioner with the California Energy Commission.

In 2015, onshore wind generated 11,856 gigawatt-hours, or 6.06 percent of the in-state total power generation in California. Offshore wind is new to California.

Last May, Governor Edmund Brown Jr. asked the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to create an Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force to examine opportunities for offshore wind renewable energy development along the California coast.

That task force is a non-regulatory entity that will facilitate coordination and communication between BOEM and state, local, federal and tribal agencies on potential offshore leases for research activity or commercial development.

The leases would be located on federal submerged lands on the outer continental shelf.

The first offshore wind projects being considered in California would be located in federal waters northeast of Morro Bay and the operator would be the Seattle-based Trident Winds.

The proposed project would entail the use of 100 floating foundations each supporting a wind turbine that can produce up to 8 megawatts (MW). The project is expected to generate up to 800 MW.
California Offshore Wind Map courtesy of National Renewable Energy Laboratory
A seafloor transmission cable would bring electricity to shore. If built, the project would be located about 33 nautical miles northwest of Morro Bay in water depths of 2,600‐3,300 feet. The proposed lease area is 67,963 acres.

"This offshore wind project proposal, the first of its kind, marks another important milestone," said Hochschild.

The potential impact for offshore wind was recently established in an analysis by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). That analysis found that areas off the west coast and Hawaii have the potential of generating over 1.5 terawatts of offshore wind energy. NREL also found that offshore wind hourly characteristics may be complimentary to solar in California.

Offshore wind offers advantages such more as the more consistent wind speeds that are present over the ocean. These allow higher utilization rates compared with similarly sized onshore wind turbines.

The current hurdle for offshore wind projects is that they are significantly more costly to build and maintain than onshore wind.

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California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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