The California Energy Commission (CEC) adopted a report establishing offshore wind goals and moving the state one step closer to development of the clean energy resource off California’s coast. Preliminary findings in the report set planning goals of 2,000-5,000 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind by 2030 and 25,000 MW (25 GW) by 2045, enough electricity to power 3.75 million initially and 25 million homes by mid-century.
There are currently two federally-designated wind energy areas (WEAs) off the cost of California: Humboldt off the North Coast and Morro Bay off the Central Coast.
The California North Coast wind resource is one of the best in the world with high renewable energy potential and wind speeds consistent and favorable for commercial development, the report notes. However, the electric system in California’s North Coast region is relatively isolated from the California grid and serves primarily local community need.
Additional transmission infrastructure will be needed to deliver offshore wind energy from this region to the grid. Existing transmission on the Central Coast is robust and near large load centers. Near-term electric generator retirements, such as 2,225 MW from the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, provides an opportunity to repurpose existing infrastructure to integrate wind energy developed offshore the Central Coast, the report says.
However, there is still a need to do long-term planning for the subsea infrastructure and the ability to use existing onshore infrastructure.
To date, most offshore wind energy projects have used fixed-bottom foundations, which are more suitable for shallow waters of 60 meters (about 200 feet) or less. The deep waters of the Pacific Outer Continental Shelf off California’s coast have steep drop-offs and will require offshore wind turbines installed on floating platforms to be anchored to the seabed.
Diagram of Mooring, Anchoring, and Floating Foundations
Source: CEC, Maxwell et al. 2022
The CEC developed the report in coordination with federal, state, and local agencies and stakeholders including Tribal governments, fisheries and other ocean users. It is the first of several products the CEC must prepare to create a strategic plan for offshore wind energy development as required by Assembly Bill 525. It reflects the latest available research on technical potential.
CEC staff will next study the economic benefits of offshore wind in relation to seaport investments and workforce development needs. Staff will also create a roadmap to develop a permitting process for offshore wind energy facilities and associated electricity and transmission infrastructure. The entire plan must be submitted to the Legislature by June 2023.
Last year, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an agreement opening the West Coast for development for the first time. As a result of the partnership, in May, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management released a proposed sale notice for offshore wind leases off the northern and central coasts in areas designated as most suitable for commercial wind energy activities near Humboldt and Morro Bay.
Plans for renovations to prepare for offshore wind activities are already underway at the Port of Humboldt Bay with $10.5 million in funding approved by the CEC earlier this year. Governor Newsom’s 2022–23 budget proposal builds on this effort and proposes an additional $45 million for other needed upgrades at waterfront facilities.
Maxwell, Sara M., Francine Kershaw, Cameron C. Locke, Melinda G. Conners, Cyndi Dawson, Sandy Aylesworth, Rebecca Loomis, and Andrew F. Johnson. (2022) “Potential Impacts of Floating Wind Turbine Technology for Marine Species and Habitats.” Journal of Environmental Management 307 (2022) 114577. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2022.114577