An armada of wind farms is planned for the California coast under new legislation intended to spur an offshore wind energy revolution in the Golden State.
Touted as the perfect complement to solar energy, lawmakers believe offshore wind will reduce reliance on fossil fuels and provide badly needed new jobs at a time when California is dealing with electricity shortages and massive unemployment. In unanimous fashion, the Assembly approved a proposal late Thursday that commits the state to building the infrastructure and securing permits needed to bring the offshore wind industry fully online by 2045.
“We don’t have that many opportunities to work on matters that will have an impact long after we’re gone, but this is one of them,” said the bill’s author, Assemblymember David Chiu. “With offshore wind, we can counter the threat of climate change, meet our clean energy goals, and create thousands of new good-paying jobs in the process.”
California’s outdated electrical grid has faltered in recent years in the face of summer heat waves, prompting doubts as to whether the state can meet its ambitious goal of a fully green grid by 2045 and keep the lights on for 40 million residents. Though California is already a prodigious producer of solar power, experts say the state must continue to diversify its clean energy portfolio as it continues to shutter its dirtiest power plants.
According to Chiu, the answer to the state’s conundrum lies just off its majestic coast.
Under the San Francisco Democrat’s proposal, Assembly Bill 525, state regulators would be tasked with developing a comprehensive plan for clearing regulatory hurdles and building the necessary infrastructure to develop an offshore wind industry off the Pacific Ocean. The bill sets generation targets and planning goals for 2030 and 2045 and received no verified opposition during the legislative process.
Furthermore, the bill directs the California Energy Commission to coordinate with the energy industry and labor groups to find ways to avoid negative impacts on coastal ecosystems, fisheries and Native American communities.
California’s bipartisan push comes amid a wave of new support for offshore wind from the federal government.
Over the last several months, the Biden administration has approved new offshore wind projects in places like Massachusetts and is also exploring opportunities in California and the Gulf of Mexico. In addition, President Biden has set a goal for the country to match the amount of offshore wind energy currently produced by Europe’s older, well-established industry by 2030.
To meet Biden’s lofty target, the feds and California announced a partnership this past spring and said plans were underway to get new turbines built and moored to the Pacific Ocean.
Though California has over 800 miles of steep coastline, traditional offshore wind technologies aren’t feasible due to the immense depths of the Pacific Ocean. The governments’ proposed solution is moving away from fixed-bottom turbines in favor of an army of floating ones.
The floating option would involve cabling or mooring the turbines to an underwater platform hundreds of feet underwater and allow generation to occur above submarine basins such as the Monterey Canyon.
So far the feds and state are focusing off the rocky Central California coastline for the first projects. In May, the Biden administration said it will jumpstart the regulatory process and schedule lease sales with the private sector throughout a nearly 400-square-mile stretch near Morro Bay.
One of the main functions of AB 525 is to help clear challenges that in the past have slowed offshore wind proposals.
Because the projects will be in federal waters, the Department of Defense must first OK them and the proponents will have to appease the potential concerns of shipping, fishing and conservation groups.
After clearing the Assembly in a 38-0 vote, Chiu’s proposal goes to the governor for final approval. If Governor Gavin Newsom survives the Sept. 14 recall, he’s expected to sign off on the offshore wind bill.
Industry groups roundly praised the Legislature’s votes and called on Newsom to ink AB 525.
“With heat waves once again threatening the power supply, California leaders recognize climate change is here – and it’s time to move even faster to develop new, reliable sources of clean energy,” said American Clean Power in a statement. “It’s clear that California means business when it comes to fighting climate change, and this bill ensures offshore wind will be an important part of the state’s efforts to decarbonize the economy, create renewable energy jobs, and provide reliable, low-cost, carbon-free power for every community.”
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