Atlantic states may have a head start in the offshore wind game, but California has a plan to catch up — and even surpass — them.
On Wednesday, the California Energy Commission adopted the goal of developing between 3 and 5 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030 on its way to reaching 25 gigawatts by 2045. The latter target would generate enough electricity to meet the demands of 25 million homes.
“These ambitious yet achievable goals are an important signal of how committed California is to bringing the offshore wind industry to our state,” said CEC Chair David Hochschild in a statement.
This comes as the first step of the commission’s creation of a strategic plan for offshore wind development, as mandated by a law put in place last September. That law tasked the commission with determining the maximum offshore wind capacity that the state could conceivably build out by 2030 and 2045. Now, it seems, we have an answer.
Next, the CEC has to submit its complete offshore wind plan to the legislature by June 2023. The state will study the potential economic benefits of offshore wind development, as well as put together a plan for wind farm and transmission permitting together.
Assuming the goal comes to fruition, California is setting itself up to become the leader in offshore wind development. No other state has been as ambitious in its long-term offshore wind plans so far, even though the industry is relatively nascent in California. The state's offshore geography may pose a challenge to meeting the goals as well. Because the Pacific Ocean’s floor is so deep off the coast of California, building the infrastructure will require the use of floating turbines, which have not yet been widely adopted aside from at a few sites in Scotland and Portugal.
The Biden administration set the national goal of 30 gigawatts of power from offshore wind by 2030. Much of the progress toward this target has so far happened in the Atlantic, with two commercial-scale offshore wind projects already approved off the coast of New England and more in the works.
However, in May, the Interior Department proposed the country’s first lease sale off the coast of California, pinpointing several areas off the coast of both central and northern California as promising.
But the U.S. still lags well behind Europe in both deployment and ambition. Denmark, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands, for example, recently committed to upping their combined offshore wind capacity to 150 gigawatts by 2050. This represents a tenfold increase from the 15 gigawatts of offshore capacity that the group contributes to the continent’s energy mix at present. That would be enough to power roughly 230 million European households.