California Partners with Federal Government on Offshore Wind


Offshore wind is a newcomer to the renewable energy discussion in California, with two agencies - the California Energy Commission and the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) working together to possibly bring the industry to the state.

Interest in the topic is growing as evidenced by the large turnout at two meetings in Sacramento last week on offshore wind. The first was the sold out 2017 California Offshore Wind Industry Symposium, which was followed by a packed March 3 meeting at the Energy Commission.

The first California task force, led by BOEM, called the Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force, convened last year. That task force saw more than 100 stakeholders start a conversation on the potential and the challenges for offshore wind along the state’s coast.

“California is currently implementing a comprehensive set of climate change policies, including 50 percent renewable energy target by 2030, and we’re interested in learning about how offshore wind could play a role in helping achieve our climate and renewable energy goals,” said Energy Commissioner Karen Douglas.

Stakeholders and the public are encouraged to participate in the process. Energy Commission workshops are being planned along the coast before the July 13 task force meeting.

Despite the sizeable interest in offshore wind, it is in the exploratory stage in California and most of the nation.

Block Island Wind Farm, which is the first offshore wind farm project in the United States, opened last fall off the coast of Rhode Island. Massachusetts and New York are also active in offshore wind procurement.

Europe has an already evolved offshore wind industry. The first wind project was installed off the coast of Denmark in 1991. Europe now has almost 13 gigawatts (GW) of installed capacity.

The relatively shallow ocean depths in Europe and along the East Coast enable offshore wind projects to be developed on large, fixed-bottom platforms. California’s deeper coastal waters demand that wind turbines be built on floating platforms. The floating platforms will require additional technological innovation.

BOEM is one of several federal agencies with jurisdiction over projects in federal waters, which extend from three miles off the coast out to 200 miles. California oversees projects within three miles of California’s coast or islands.

Eventual licensing of any wind farm projects off California’s coast will be the purview of BOEM, but would also trigger multiple state permitting requirements.

Photo 1 credit: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Photo 2 credit: National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

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