Is California next in line for offshore wind?

In 2018, policymakers set a goal of 100% clean energy in California by 2045. One way to meet or beat that timeline? Offshore wind. An American Jobs Project report finds that offshore wind industry could support over 17,500 jobs in 2045, however, developers will first have to abide by state and federal regulations for permitting and construction.

Offshore wind projects are extremely capital intensive, so it makes sense that the first wave of development in the U.S. has focused on high-load, transmission-constrained East Coast regions. New England is one excellent example, where power prices are high enough to support offshore wind.

The relatively shallow water depths — which extend beyond state territorial waters and submarine topography off the Atlantic coast — complement existing and well-proven wind-turbine installation methods.

But make no mistake, California is the natural target for the second wave of development. As the world’s fifth-largest economy with a power-hungry population, an extensive coastline, and a progressive legislature and governor, California is likely to lead the offshore wind industry on the West Coast.

Regulations, permitting, and financial considerations may offer new challenges to offshore wind developers out west.

Regulation & permitting
Attaining approvals for offshore wind projects in California will involve several federal and state agencies that are charged with managing and protecting:

Submerged lands and coastal resources

  • Protected species
  • Cultural resources
  • Water quality
  • Existing ocean uses, such as crabbing and fishing
  • Shipping and navigation
  • Recreation and public safety

Developers considering offshore wind projects in California will need to approach the federal and state permitting process strategically. This requires an in-depth consideration and understanding of how potential resource impacts and regulatory approvals and conditions may affect project planning, development, and timing.

Wind developers will also need to consider federal and state approvals.

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