Joint effort from federal, California governments to deploy up to 4.6 GW of offshore wind development to Pacific coast

Published on May 27, 2021 by Chris Galford

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In an extension of the Biden administration’s goal to deploy 30 GW of offshore wind by 2030, the U.S. Departments of the Interior (DOI) and Defense (DoD) have agreed to work with California to deploy as much as 4.6 GW of offshore wind development to the state’s northern and central coasts.

“I believe that a clean energy future is within our grasp in the United States, but it will take all of us and the best-available science to make it happen. Today’s announcement reflects months of active engagement and dedication between partners who are committed to advancing a clean energy future,” Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said. “The offshore wind industry has the potential to create tens of thousands of good-paying union jobs across the nation while combating the negative effects of climate change.”

This Pacific push can essentially be divided into two parts: 3 GW of development roughly 399 square miles off California’s central coast region and a separate effort to label northern California’s Humboldt Call Area as a potential Wind Energy Area. The former will be a joint effort between DOI, DoD, and the State of California, while the latter will be pushed by DOI on its own. Wind Energy Areas allow for the targeted creation of new domestic clean energy resources. The announcements followed years of joint efforts to identify areas on the California coast that would be compatible with the DoD’s training and testing operations.

Military testing, training, and operations will not be affected as the partners push toward new domestic clean energy resources.

“Tacking the climate crisis is a national security imperative and the Defense Department is proud to have played a role in this important effort,” Dr. Colin Kahl, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, said. “The Defense Department is committed to working across the U.S. government to find solutions that support renewable energy in a manner compatible with essential military operations. Throughout this effort, the Defense Department has worked tirelessly with the White House, the Department of the Interior, and the State of California to find solutions that enable offshore wind development while ensuring long-term protection for testing, training, and operations critical to our military readiness.”

For the wind industry, it also offers a major opportunity. The American Clean Power Association hailed the news, noting that it will help deliver new power sources to communities with increasingly high energy demands.

“California now has an opportunity to become a global leader in floating offshore wind technology with an agreement to move forward with leasing of 3,000 MW in Morro Bay and additional space in the Humboldt Call Area, totaling 4,600 MW potential development,” Heather Zichal, American Clean Power CEO, said. “Our country is blessed with considerable wind resources off its coasts, and now is the time to harness those resources to achieve the sustainability and climate goals of coastal states and to provide certainty for the offshore wind industry, strengthen the workforce, and revolutionize domestic supply chains up and down the coasts and across the country.”

The wind industry seems set to grow, and as it does, the Biden administration will advance toward its clean energy and green job goals. At the same time, California will inch closer to its goal of carbon free energy by 2045. In partnership with the state, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will hold an Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force next month to discuss the newly identified areas and their potential as Wind Energy Areas.

From there, these areas may be able to be finalized and begin the process of environmental analysis. Tribal consultation will be a part of any such arrangement. Only following this will a proposed sale notice be launched for one lease sale auction in mid-2022.

“This agreement is a crucial first step for the industry, which will help unlock investment and will set up the West Coast for an even bigger floating offshore wind industry in the future,” Zichal said.