U.S. Announces First Sale of Rights for California Offshore Wind Development

The U.S. government has announced the first-ever sale of offshore wind development rights off the California coast. The Dept. of Interior (DOI) on Oct. 18 said it would hold the event on Dec. 6, in an effort to spur industry growth in the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

The agency said the sale will include five lease areas encompassing 373,268 acres off the northern and central coasts of California. The Biden administration has made offshore wind an important part of its climate change and jobs creation plans, with a goal of deploying at least 30 GW of offshore wind power generation capacity by 2030. The White House in September said it expects the industry will support 77,000 jobs by the end of the decade.

California officials earlier this year set a goal of installing as much as 5 GW of offshore wind this decade, and 25 GW by 2045. Developers already are building projects off the U.S. East Coast, though the U.S. offshore wind industry has been slower to grow than its European counterpart.

“The demand and momentum to build a clean energy future is undeniable,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement Tuesday. “We are taking another step toward unlocking the immense offshore wind energy potential off our nation’s West Coast.” The DOI said large-scale projects in the lease areas could provide as much as 4.5 GW of power generation. The agency said the projects would likely use wind turbines on floating platforms, since water depths along the outer continental shelf in the Pacific preclude the use of turbines fixed to the ocean floor.

The Biden administration earlier this year announced an “Energy Earthshot” program, creating a new Floating Offshore Wind Shot “to accelerate breakthroughs across engineering, manufacturing, and other innovation areas.” The program has a goal to reduce the costs of floating offshore wind technologies by more than 70% by 2035, to $45 per megawatt-hour, according to the administration.

35 GW of Generation Capacity

The DOI has said it wants at least 35 GW of offshore wind generation capacity in service by 2035, with Tuesday’s action designed to help jump-start the nascent U.S. industry. Haaland said her department is “moving forward at the pace and scale required to help achieve the president’s goals to make offshore wind energy, including floating offshore wind energy, a reality for the United States.” The agency said a formal notice of the December sale will be published this week, and would include details on the qualifications for companies to participate.

Liz Burdock, president and CEO of the Business Network for Offshore Wind, in a statement emailed to POWER, said, “The future of offshore wind is floating, and today’s lease auction announcement is another exciting step to advancing the U.S. as a premier market for this cutting-edge industry, which will bring a reliable renewable resource to California’s power sector. Bolstered both by California’s long-term goals and the federal government’s Earth Shot initiative, the West Coast market will singularly rival those on the global stage and could draw billions in U.S. supply chain investments.”

Burdock, whose group is a non-profit organization supporting the supply chain for offshore wind, along with calling for expanded adoption of the technology, also noted that “the U.S. must move with urgency to capture this rare economic opportunity by freeing up critical support for port and transmission investments, and do the hard work to identify and build an American supply chain that will anchor the U.S. as a global industry leader.”

Lease Areas Identified

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Amanda Lefton, speaking Tuesday at the American Clean Power (ACP) Association’s Offshore WINDPOWER 2022 conference in Providence, R.I., said the lease areas are in the Morro Bay and Humboldt Bay wind energy areas off California. Said Lefton, “Today’s announcement represents years of close coordination and engagement with the state of California, Tribes, ocean users, local communities and all interested parties to move us closer towards achieving the administration’s vision to fight climate change and realizing California’s clean energy future, while creating a domestic supply chain and good-paying union jobs.”

JC Sandberg, the ACP’s interim CEO, said, “This historic announcement marks a significant milestone for offshore wind in this country and on the West Coast. This shows what can happen when we tap into the abundant renewable energy resources we have across the U.S., including along our coastlines. ACP applauds Director Lefton and BOEM’s efforts to develop offshore wind lease sales like the one announced today as California and the country work to meet growing demand and ambitious clean energy goals.”

Sandberg added, “This lease sale reflects an all-of-government approach that brought together multiple federal and state agencies. It puts California on a path as a global hub for offshore wind technology that will foster thousands of good-paying American maritime and manufacturing jobs while boosting the domestic offshore wind supply chain.”

Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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