Leading Wind Innovator Says California Should Embrace Offshore Wind

Henrik Stiesdal, who led the effort to turn the Scandinavian country of Denmark into an international wind powerhouse during the 1980s, recently visited the California Energy Commission.

Today, Denmark receives nearly 40 percent of its electricity from offshore wind farms and plans to have wind supply half of its electricity consumption by 2020.

During his talk at the Energy Commission, Stiesdal said offshore wind is a potential electricity generator California should embrace.

Stiesdal is not the only one who thinks wind has potential for California. At the request of Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., the federal government has formed a California Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force to examine opportunities for offshore renewable energy development.

California Energy Commissioner David Hochschild believes there is a larger role for wind in California’s energy portfolio.

“As California moves forward to meet 50 percent of the state’s energy needs with clean, renewable energy by 2030, we will need more energy from wind, solar and other non-carbon sources,” Hochschild said. “As we have seen from elsewhere in the world, wind has great potential and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.”

Offshore wind turbines in Denmark are anchored to the ocean floor. That technology is not feasible for the California coast because wind turbines would need to be sited in deep water.

Stiesdal said cost-effective technologies exist that would permit turbines to float.

Stiesdal has turned his attention to designing an upgraded version of the wind turbines used in Danish waters. He believes a reasonable-sized wind project off the coast of California would annually produce 11 billion kilowatt hours of electricity or the equivalent of all the electricity consumed in Sacramento County annually.

In August, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management began the process to consider leasing an area in federal water off the California coast to companies interested in building a floating wind energy project.

The first offshore wind project being considered would be located in deep federal waters northeast of Morro Bay and operated by the Seattle-based Trident Winds.

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