Where, and When, Will California Get Offshore Wind?

Under California’s current trajectory, the state’s first offshore wind farm could be completed in waters near Morro Bay and begin sending power to the grid by 2025, according to Karen Douglas, Commissioner, California Energy Commission.

Those are Douglas’s best guesses, based on progress of an intergovernmental task force on renewable energy established last year by Gov. Jerry Brown. Speaking during an April 12 webinar on the U.S. offshore wind road map presented by Wind Energy Update, Douglas said that the task force met once last October, and will meet again in July with a goal of identifying an offshore area that could be the focus of a call for information and nominations by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).

Much of the work by the task force currently is focused on a multi-phased process to collect data to inform planning efforts for that call area, Douglas said.

While the task force is collecting data along the whole coast of California, Douglas said that special emphasis has been placed on an area between Morro Bay and south towards Santa Barbara. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1. Offshore Data Collection Area off the coast of California. Source: California Energy Commission

“There are very good resources in the far north part of the state and heading up into Oregon and beyond,” she said. “Those resources are very difficult to get to market, and so the developer interest that we have seen has focused in the south-central part of the state coastline.”

The call area may or may not include an area that was identified in a January 2016 unsolicited lease request submitted to BOEM by Trident Winds.

Trident said in its application that it has initiated development of a wind farm off the coast of Pt. Estero, Calif., with a grid connection in Morro Bay. The project has an initial nameplate capacity of 750 MW, and could be expanded to 1 GW at a later date, according to the application.

Douglas said it is not known exactly when BOEM would move forward with a call for information and nominations based on the area the task force recommends at the July meeting, but she expects that it would be not long after that meeting.

She added that, should the industry be able “to bring forward reasonably [cost]-competitive proposals, the industry is still looking at a “long time horizon” for development and permitting.

“If BOEM were to issue a call for nominations in late summer or early fall and somebody were to apply and want one of those areas and go through the entire BOEM process, including being granted a lease…realistically that kind of project would not start generating electricity for the grid until somewhere close to 2025 or after,” Douglas said.

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Lead image credit: BOEM

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Jennifer Delony, analyst for TransmissionHub, started her career as a B2B news editor in the local and long-distance telecommunications industries in the '90s. Jennifer began covering renewable energy issues at the local level in 2005 and covered U.S. and Canadian utility-scale wind energy as editor of North American Windpower magazine from 2006-2009. She also provides analysis for the oil and natural gas sectors as editor of Oilman Magazine.

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