The Biden administration has released lease terms for offshore wind projects that will place hundreds of turbines in California’s coastal waters — the first such project off the country’s Pacific coast.
The two projects along the northern and central coasts of the state are expected to generate up to 4.5 gigawatts of wind energy. The US Department of the Interior said Thursday that this is enough to power about 1.5 million homes. Wind turbines could eventually cover up to 583 square miles (1,150 square kilometers) of land off the coast.
The federal government will receive public comment starting Tuesday for 60 days on the terms of the leases, which include requirements for dealing with tribes, fisheries and other ocean users as well as negotiating construction labor agreements. Bidders can receive additional credit for agreeing to invest in workforce training or develop the supply chain for offshore wind energy.
Changes can be made before the rental sale is officially opened. Even after leases are awarded, projects must clear environmental and other reviews, and it will likely take years before any turbines are operational.
President Joe Biden has set a goal of generating 30 gigawatts of power from offshore wind by 2030 to help the nation reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and achieve climate change goals. Today the country produces about 118 gigawatts of wind power annually, but most of it comes from turbines in the center of the country, according to the US Energy Information Administration. There are currently offshore wind energy projects off the coast of Rhode Island and Virginia.
“Today, we are taking another step toward unlocking the huge potential of offshore wind energy (off) our nation’s west coast to help combat the effects of climate change while creating well-paying jobs,” U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland said in a press release. .
In California, three rental areas have been proposed near Morro Bay on California’s central coast, a small town driven by tourism and the fishing industry, which catches tuna and swordfish in the area. Some fishermen are concerned that the projects could negatively impact coastal ecosystems. The other two rental areas are located off the coast along Humboldt Bay in northern California.
Mike Conroy, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations, said the fishing industry has not been given the opportunity to provide input on where to place wind turbines to minimize damage to the seafood industry.
“The fishing industry is not opposed to offshore wind projects. What we are opposed to is a process that tells us where these turbines are going to go.”
California has set a goal of producing 100% of its electricity from sources that do not emit greenhouse gases by 2045. The state will get about 11% of its electricity from wind power in 2020 through a combination of in-state generation and imports from other states, according to California Energy Commission.
California Governor Gavin Newsom supports a marine development plan in the state’s coastal waters. $20 million was included in last year’s state budget to support such projects.
David Hochschild, chair of the California Energy Commission, said the state looks forward to working with tribal governments and other affected groups “to ensure responsible development of this important clean energy resource.”
Other proposed offshore wind energy projects would be deployed on coasts off Maine, New York, the Carolinas, Oregon, the Gulf of Mexico and the mid-Atlantic.
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