Offshore wind leaders push Calif. to set record U.S. target

Source: By David Iaconangelo, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, October 3, 2019

A newly formed coalition of energy companies is pushing California to set the most aggressive goal for offshore wind development in the United States, even as conflicts with military uses of nearby waters remain unresolved.

The Offshore Wind California coalition’s eight founding members include European energy giants Equinor ASA and Ørsted A/S — two deep-pocketed leaders of the incipient industry along the Atlantic coast — as well as two smaller companies that have already proposed building floating wind turbines in the deep waters off California.

The group wants the state to build 10 gigawatts of capacity by 2040 — 1 GW more than New York’s target for 2035.

Adam Stern, executive director for the group, said it would aim to cultivate “public and policy support” for the goal, particularly with environmentalists and labor unions. He pointed to an estimate from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) that found installing 10 GW would create 18,000 jobs in the state.

A little over 8 of those gigawatts could be built in three existing zones or “call areas” already earmarked for potential development by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), according to the estimate.

California energy regulators expect they will have to start accounting for offshore wind power in the state’s resource mix by 2021. But it’s not clear how the sudden emergence of a pipeline for conventional offshore wind projects off the east coast — where shallow waters allow for turbines to sit on foundations drilled into the ocean floor — would translate to the west coast, where waters are too deep for fixed-bottom designs.

Stern said establishing a target would give developers greater certainty about their technology’s place in the mix.

“California has one of the most aggressive decarbonization goals of any state,” said Stern. “There’s going to be a need for more [power] supply, and we think offshore wind has a major role to play in that.”

The group’s composition also suggests that Ørsted, the world’s largest offshore wind developer, could partner with another coalition member to build floating turbines, which would mark the Danish company’s first foray into the early-stage technology. Two sources with knowledge of coalition discussions said a partnership on floating tech was likely to emerge from the new group. Ørsted did not respond to E&E News’ inquiries.

In addition to Equinor and Ørsted, the coalition also includes Oslo-based engineering firm Aker Solutions, Michigan-based Magellan Wind, Mainstream Renewable Power, publicly-traded Canadian energy firm Northland Power, offshore wind firm Principle Power and the nonprofit Pacific Ocean Energy Trust.

Only one floating wind pilot project is in the works in the United States, off the coast of Maine. Some federal researchers and industry representatives think the technology could prove useful in avoiding conflicts with fishermen and shipping interests.

In California, any offshore wind project would first have to get past the Department of Defense. The military says turbines in BOEM’s call areas would conflict with its activities, including live-round and rapid-deployment training.

DOD officials are discussing a resolution with representatives of BOEM, California’s energy agency and others on at least two working groups. One of the groups, organized by California Democratic Rep. Salud Carbajal, will convene at the end of this month for the second time.

“It’s trying to see what the art of the possible is, to get to that solution,” said Steve Chung, encroachment program director for the Navy’s Southwest region.