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CA - Calif. unveils largest U.S. offshore wind target

California energy officials have released a draft of the West Coast’s first road map for offshore wind, calling for more gigawatts of electricity from the resource than any other U.S. state to date.

Correction appended.

California energy officials have released a draft of the West Coast’s first road map for offshore wind, calling for more gigawatts of electricity from the resource than any other U.S. state to date.

In a report made public Friday, the California Energy Commission staff recommended building 3 GW of offshore wind by 2030, followed by a larger wave of development in subsequent years. By 2045, staff found, the state should produce anywhere from 10 GW to 15 GW from turbines located off its coast, enough to power roughly 10 million to 15 million homes.

That amount exceeds New York’s 9 GW target for 2035, currently the country’s largest long-term goal. The California plan was celebrated by offshore wind advocates, who have spent years pushing state officials to set the targets.

Adam Stern, the executive director of Offshore Wind California, which represents large prospective developers, called it “very encouraging news and an important milestone” for the state’s industry.

The goals “show that California is serious about ‘going big'” on offshore wind, Stern said in a statement.

Johanna Neumann, a senior campaign director at Environment America’s Research and Policy Center, said the plan showed California was serious about hitting its goal of a 100 percent carbon-free grid. Environment America was one of eight environmentalist, organized labor and clean energy groups that wrote last week to Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) in support of targets similar to those in the plan.

A finalized version of the road map could come as soon as next month. Its recommendations stem from a law passed last year, A.B. 525, which tasked the California Energy Commission with drawing up a statewide offshore wind target. Three other planning documents are due next year, ranging from a strategic plan and a permitting road map to an assessment of economic benefits and workforce demands. All of the documents will inform the state’s resource procurement process, in which regulators and utilities plan how the state will source its electricity. By 2045, California must receive 100 percent of its power from carbon-free resources.

The state’s progress on offshore wind could ultimately hinge on factors like California’s future political leadership. But wheels are already turning on the first several gigawatts, as federal officials in the Interior Department have been assessing reviews of potential wind areas off the central and northern coast of the state in preparation for a future lease auction (Energywire, April 8). As much as 4.6 GW could be built in those areas.

Some energy analysts said California’s move could prompt new offshore wind policies in other states.

“The final report would not represent binding state law, and targets with 20+ year deadlines may not seem like a meaningful policy development today,” wrote analysts at ClearView Energy Partners LLC in a note yesterday. “However, we think the report’s eventual finalization — as well as other analyses currently under development by the CEC — may motivate new offshore wind policies — including targets and incentives — during the 2023 and/or 2024 state legislative sessions.”

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