26 Apr 22 News Projects United States

America's Golden State is a gilded opportunity for floating wind

Windfloat technology has been developed by California-based Principle Power, a strategic partner of Mainstream's sister company, Aker Offshore Wind, and a fellow board member of industry advocacy body Offshore Wind California

Mainstream's Vice President of US Offshore Wind, Paula Major, has set out in the latest issue of Energy Focus magazine why California – the US Golden State that boosts consistent winds, vast coastlines and a commitment to 100% clean energy – is perfectly positioned to become a global leader in floating offshore wind power.

The article is reprinted below with the kind permission of the magazine's publisher, and the full Spring edition of Energy Focus is available to read as a digital edition here.

California may be best known in the energy industry for its trailblazing solar market, but the landmark Joint Agency Senate Bill 100 report (SB100), published in March 2021, concluded that California will need at least 10GW of offshore wind if it is to achieve its 100% renewable and zero-carbon goals by 2045 in a cost-effective manner.

While this would be a positive step, 10GW represents just a small fraction of the approximately 140GW of new renewable energy that is needed for California to reach its full decarbonisation goals. 

California gets serious about offshore wind

The California Energy Commission is now working to establish clear offshore wind targets for 2030 and 2045, as directed by state legislation (Assembly Bill 525), through engagement with the industry and stakeholders. The focus is on setting out plans to support the development of a thriving and world-leading floating wind industry by 2030 and beyond.

Paula Major serves as Chair of Offshore Wind California, Board Member of Business Network Offshore Wind, and Council Member of America Clean Power Offshore Wind Council

Even before the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced that it would lease the first 4.6GW of available deep-water leases by the autumn of 2022, California had the attention and engagement of the major global offshore wind players.

Offshore Wind California, a coalition established by seven companies in 2019, now boasts 40 member companies, ranging from environmental consultants to large international energy companies.

The West Coast catches up

These organisations are all working together towards the collective goal of realising California’s first offshore wind projects.

The Morro Bay Wind Energy Area off the state’s Central Coast will have a capacity of approximately 3GW, and access to 5–6GW of interconnection capacity, according to a staff report from the California Independent System Operator.

In Northern California, meanwhile, the Humboldt Wind Energy Area will have approximately 1.6GW of leases available, according to BOEM. Ahead of the auction, BOEM will issue a Proposed Sale Notice to gather feedback on several items relating to the proposed auction. The issuing of a Final Sale Notice will follow 45 days before the auction, containing details of the final leases being made available, the final list of qualified bidders, and specific details of the auction rules and bidding process.

The time is now for floating wind

The UK’s recent ScotWind announcement, awarding 15GW of floating wind project leases, offers proof that floating wind is set for commercial-scale development on the global stage. According to the Scottish government, for every 1GW of capacity awarded, these projects will secure at least US$1.36bn in supply chain investment.

The vision for California involves deploying floating offshore wind at scale and with speed. The new state budget proposal issued by California Governor Newsom earlier this year earmarked US$45m for offshore wind infrastructure in the fiscal year 2022–2023. A new Offshore Wind Energy Deployment Facility Improvement Program is planned to advance capabilities for deploying offshore wind in federal waters with improvements in facilities planning and development.

California still has plenty of challenges if it is to establish itself as a global leader in floating wind. Unlike other US states, there are no firm offshore wind power offtake commitments or targets as yet.

Ports will require investment, and transmission systems will need extensions in the north and upgrades elsewhere.

The challenges are considerable, but the opportunities are tremendous for sowing the seeds to grow a long-standing thriving industry.

Rich with opportunities

Local and or regional supply chains will be needed to support this new billion dollar industry along the West Coast – from California to Oregon (3GW by 2030) and Washington.

From design, manufacture and transport of equipment, to installation and a host of activities and associated services, meeting the challenge will require a range of expertise to deliver the various aspects of each offshore wind project.

With the significant water depths (500–1,300m) and hundreds of floating turbines along the Central and North California coasts, vast lengths of mooring lines will be needed – at least 800km to support the 300-plus turbines in California alone. Along with onshore infrastructure, a range of engineering services, environmental monitoring, surveys, protection services, remote operated vehicles, divers, other environmental activities and ports upgrades will be needed.

Hydrogen, storage, and hybrid solutions also offer vast opportunities for partnership, investment, and innovation.

The next frontier in renewables

Government agencies’ ongoing progress in California to bolster the industry by committing to offshore wind targets and supporting a supply chain will help drive California and the entire US West Coast to be the next frontier for floating offshore wind.