- The California Energy Commission, or CEC, on Friday released a draft strategic plan for offshore wind development, estimating a potential generation capacity of up to 59.6 GW off the state’s coast and laying out strategies for maximizing that potential.
- The draft plan was completed in accordance with a 2021 bill passed by the California legislature. Large parts focus on the obstacles facing the deployment of floating offshore wind, as the waters off the coast of California are too deep for the fixed-bottom turbines used in the Atlantic.
- “Really, on the floating side, there’s no plan in the country—maybe even in the world—as comprehensive as this one,” Offshore Wind California Executive Director Adam Stern said of the 279-page report. “To me, that’s a huge achievement.”
“Much work remains to review and refine the details of this strategic plan, but its determination and direction are clear,” Stern said in a release. Releasing a strategic plan—even in draft form—is a “huge leap forward” for the state, he told Utility Dive.
“Many elements of the report existed in different places, and now they are all brought together,” he said.
The first offshore wind lease auction off the coast of California was held in late 2022. Five lease areas covering more than 370,000 acres off the north and central coasts sold for an average of $2,028 per acre, which is less than the $8,951 average seen in Atlantic rental sales earlier in the same year.
At the time, experts attributed these lower prices to uncertainty about the new market on the West Coast—uncertainty over the depth of water in areas being sold for rent.
“Currently, most offshore wind energy projects use fixed-bottom foundations, which are more suitable for shallow waters of 60 meters (about 200 feet) or less,” the CEC said in its report. “By the end of 2022, there will be only 10 floating offshore wind energy projects operating worldwide, with a total of 123.4 MW.”
California also faces the task of building the infrastructure needed to support onshore wind, including ports, supply chains, and transmission.
“Many supply chain activities are also expected to collocate at or near ports,” the CEC said. “These ports must build, assemble, and service the foundations of floating offshore wind turbines.”
The commission recommends a “coordinated multiport strategy” because “no single port area in California” can serve the needs of the state’s entire offshore wind industry. The report suggested several ports in the state could be used for offshore wind and said these sites “must be developed as soon as possible to give the state the best opportunity to achieve its goal of offshore wind planning of 25 GW by 2045. .”
“Building the multiport strategy described in this plan, dividing the responsibilities, and creating the work with both state and private funding necessary to implement it is essential,” Stern said. “It is also important to plan the transmission; it will only happen if we can bring the power to the grid.”
The report said CEC brought in consulting firm Guidehouse for a transmission technology assessment, which showed that “some of the critical cables, substations, and other interconnection equipment needed to support California’s offshore wind is still in development and not yet commercially available.”
California’s statutory goal for offshore wind procurement is 5 GW by 2030 and 25 GW of capacity by 2045. The CEC estimates that suitable offshore space off the coast of California has 35.8 GW to 59.6 GW of potential. offshore wind capacity.
“They caveat by saying that there are inconsistencies in some of the areas that need to be resolved, but the fact that there is a lot of capacity known, even if only half can be improved, makes it comfortable for the kingdom to reach the 25 gigawatt goal we need,” said Stern.