West Coast
A floating offshore wind farm in Scotland, operated by Equinor. (Michal Wachucik / Equinor)

CA - Climate change: California makes a big offshore wind push Los Angeles Times

It’s been a good week for offshore wind power.

Heading into Labor Day Weekend, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a deal with legislative leaders that could prompt construction of California’s first offshore wind farms — an expensive but valuable resource that researchers have found can play a key role in reaching 100% clean energy. The deal could also lead to development of new geothermal power plants in the Imperial Valley, and a “pumped storage” hydropower project in San Diego County — more useful tools for ditching fossil fuels.

The bill was approved by the state Senate’s energy committee in a 14-3 vote on Wednesday evening. It still needs approval from two-thirds of lawmakers in the Senate and Assembly by end of session Sept. 14 before it heads to Newsom’s desk.


“We’ve set some of the most ambitious clean energy goals in the nation to break the vicious cycle of climate change-caused energy emergencies — we need every tool at our disposal to achieve them,” Newsom said in a written statement.

The challenge for offshore wind developers is that it doesn’t make economic sense to build just a handful of costly floating wind turbines — big projects are the only logical investment. And there haven’t been any utility companies or local governments able to step forward and sign a large enough contract to give developers the financial certainty they need to start construction.

The deal struck by Newsom, Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas (D-Salinas) and Senate leader Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) would allow the state’s Department of Water Resources to sign long-term electricity contracts on behalf of all Californians.

Specifically, the department would purchase “diverse clean energy resources” that take a long time to develop and aren’t already being bought in sufficient amounts — if the Public Utilities Commission first determines those resources are necessary.

Basically, state lawmakers want to see renewable energy projects beyond just solar farms, onshore wind turbines and batteries. Those resources have the lowest costs, and they’re expected to do the bulk of the work getting California — and the rest of the country, one hopes — to 100% climate-friendly power. But they’re not enough. Between ever-hotter heat waves and occasional lengthy periods with low sunlight and wind, we’ll need other stuff to fill out the final 10% or 20%.

Floating wind turbines in the Pacific could be especially valuable because California’s ocean breezes blow more consistently than onshore winds. They also stay strong into the evening, after sundown, making them a good complement to solar power.

Then there’s pumped hydropower, which can store larger amounts of energy than typical lithium-ion batteries. The San Vicente project in San Diego County, which could get a contract through the deal in Sacramento, would pump water uphill from a lower reservoir when there’s extra power on the grid, then release water to flow through generators when more power is needed.

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