California has taken a major step towards launching the first commercial offshore wind energy program on the West Coast US, in a move which could spark a renewables boom in the region.
The state has agreed with the US government to open federal waters off California’s central and northern coasts to new windfarms, in order to chase down ambitious climate targets.
The new projects would provide a major expansion of offshore wind power in the US which currently has just two working offshore windfarms – off Block Island in Rhode Island and Virginia. However, more than two dozen others are in development providing as the energy transition continues to intensify.
The announcement is part of President Biden’s plan to create 30GW of offshore wind energy by 2030. California is separately aiming to produce all electricity through renewable energy resources by 2035. The plan includes floating 380 windmills across a nearly 400sq-mile (1,035 sq km) expanse north-west of Morro Bay.
The agreement comes after the new administration’s announced a $3bn project off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts powering up to 400,000 homes with 84 turbines. Another proposed project, Ocean Wind, off New Jersey would create 1,100MW of power.
However, those windfarms would be dwarfed by the scale of the California projects, which could produce a combined 4.6 gigawatts, with the Morro Bay operation providing two-thirds of that output.
California Governor Gavin Newsom recently praised the plan, saying that developing offshore wind would be a “gamechanger to achieving California’s clean energy goals and addressing climate change”, and promised to expedite the state’s environmental review process to hasten production.
The US has lagged behind Europe developing offshore wind power. Certain geographical elements have created issues including the sheer depth of the the Pacific Ocean, which is far deeper than the Atlantic, where infrastructure can be built directly on to the seafloor. California’s wind energy will have to rely on floating turbines.
It is understood the interior department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees this kind of development, will process and respond to public feedback on the plan, with a view of finalizing the site this summer, and could open leasing by next year.