Interest in Offshore Wind Gains Momentum in California

Not long ago, the idea of offshore wind turbines off the coast of California was a faraway notion.

But that is no longer the case.

Interest in offshore wind is gaining momentum in California lately and nowhere was that more evident than during a recent meeting attended by more than 100 government, private industry, science and tribal officials in Sacramento.

That meeting served as the inaugural Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force meeting. The goal of the task force is planning the future of renewable wind and wave energy development off the coast of California.

With the newly formed task force, California joins 13 other United States coastal states in seeking critical information to inform the offshore wind decision-making process.

The next step for wind in California will be discussed at an upcoming California Ocean Renewable Energy Conference on Nov. 1 and 2 at the University of California, Davis. Scheduled conference topics will include regulatory roles and strategies for developing wind energy.

A recently completed analysis by the National Renewable Energy Lab found that areas off the West Coast and Hawaii have the potential of generating over one and a half trillion watts of power of energy. That study also found that offshore wind hourly power characteristics are complimentary to those for solar in California.

“There is a particular commercial interest in offshore wind on the Central Coast - maybe more so at this point than at any other part of the coast,” California Energy Commissioner Karen Douglas said at the task force meeting.

The first company to express interest in leasing off the Central Coast is the Seattle-based Trident Winds, LLC. In January, the company submitted an unsolicited lease request to BOEM for commercial development off Morro Bay.

That project would see 100 wind turbines located 22 nautical miles off the coast, in federally controlled waters. At that distance the turbines cannot be seen from shore.

The turbines would be sited in water 2,500 feet deep. That depth mandates that the turbines be floating platforms and not anchored ones.

For now, the Rhode Island owns the distinction of having the first offshore wind farm in the U.S.

That offshore wind project, which is scheduled to be operational by Thanksgiving, is called the Block Island Wind Farm. Constructed by Deepwater Wind, the project will employ five turbines anchored to the sea floor three miles off the coast of Block Island.

California is eyeing that project closely as it sees offshore wind as a potentially robust tool in meeting its goal of getting 50 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2030.

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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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