US federal authorities and the state of California on Tuesday announced an agreement to advance two areas for offshore wind development off the coast of California and put their efforts into deploying floating wind platforms due to the depth of the Pacific Ocean floor.
The initial identified areas could host up to 4.6 GW of capacity and proceed to lease sale auction as early as next year.
A 399-sq-m (1,033 sq km) area off the state's central coast, northwest of Morro Bay, will support 3 GW. The Humboldt Call Area off northern California is also being advanced as a potential wind energy area (WEA).
The areas have been identified by the Department of the Interior (DoI), in cooperation with the Department of Defense, which conducts significant training and testing operations off the California coast, and the state of California.
After an intergovernmental renewable energy task force meeting on June 24, to be held by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), in partnership with California, the areas will be finalised and undergo environmental analysis. The processes for the northern and central coasts will then be combined in a proposed sale notice (PSN) for one lease sale auction, which is targeted for the middle of 2022, the DoI said.
“The American offshore wind industry applauds this historic step forward on offshore wind development off the US West Coast,” the American Clean Power Association said, adding that California now has a chance to become a global leader in floating offshore wind technology.
The move is part of the Biden-Harris administration’s goal to deploy 30 GW of offshore wind by 2030. It can also help California achieve its objective of carbon-free energy by 2045.
As part of the recent California Comeback Plan, the state’s governor Gavin Newsom has proposed USD 20 million (EUR 16.3m) in funding to support offshore wind. The sum includes USD 11 million to help the Port of Humboldt apply for federal funding for upgrades.
The DoI noted that the departments of the Interior and Defense have worked for years to find areas offshore central California that are compatible with military activities. In October 2018, BOEM issued a call for information and nominations for offshore wind for three areas, including Humboldt and Morro Bay.