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CA - Onshore Permitting Requirements for Offshore Wind Projects in California

Like their terrestrial counterparts, wind turbines floating miles offshore trigger the need for various federal, state and local approvals.

While most of the industry’s focus is on securing a Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) lease, locating the turbines and subsea transmission cables, and addressing impacts to wildlife, offshore wind developers cannot lose sight of the importance of permitting a project’s onshore facilities in the coastal zone. This article focuses on the critical state and local approvals required for a wind project specifically off the California coast.

State and Local Development Approvals in the Coastal Zone

Various federal, state and – depending on the project – local approvals are likely to be required for the onshore components of any offshore wind project in California. Onshore project components include the onshore export cable route and the burying of the cable beneath the beach and any nearby roads, parks along the route to the substation, as well as interconnection hardware (e.g., transformers, switchgear), housing and additional components.

BOEM has jurisdiction over offshore wind projects on the Outer Continental Shelf and must evaluate them through the lens of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) prior to granting leases, easements and rights-of-way. Importantly, the scope of BOEM’s environmental review will almost certainly include onshore components that are also subject to the jurisdiction of the California Coastal Commission (or Coastal Commission-approved Local Coastal Programs) and the California State Lands Commission.

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