California’s Slow Move Toward Offshore Wind Farms

Winds offshore are typically stronger and more consistent than wind onshore. Stronger winds generate more power on a wind turbine. As an example, a wind turbine can generate 50 percent more power from a 16 mile per hour wind than a 14 mile per hour wind.

Ten years ago the cost to generate electricity ($/kWh) from an offshore farm was higher than an onshore wind farm. Offshore wind farms do generate more electricity than onshore wind farms. However, the construction costs for offshore wind farms are substantially higher than onshore wind farms. Offshore wind farms require individual platforms for each wind turbine, which is a significant cost.

Over fifteen years ago, countries in western Europe began the development of offshore wind farms. Today, there are 92 wind farms operating in Europe (United Kingdom – 31, Germany – 23, Denmark – 12, Netherlands – 7, Belgium – 6, Sweden – 5, Finland – 3, Ireland – 2, Spain -1, Norway -1 and France – 1), 3 in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and 1 in the United States. Ten wind farms are currently under construction in Europe, which will begin operations within the next twelve months. Recent offshore wind farm power purchase agreements have sold electricity in Europe for less than US 10¢ per kWh. The average price for electricity in the United States is US 12 ¢ per kWh.

In the United States, the first offshore wind farm began operation of the coast of Rhode Island in December 2016. The state of New York is now implementing a plant to procure over 2,400 MW capacity from offshore wind farms by 2030. Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Rhode Island and Virginia are also actively pursuing offshore wind energy.

The states on the west coast have long been perceived to have a progressive stance on the environment and renewable energy. However, the Great Plains states have made more progress in developing renewable energy over the past decade than California, Oregon or Washington. The strongest winds in the United States are off the coast of California and Oregon. However, the states along the eastern sea board of the United States are now aggressively pursuing the vast potential of offshore wind.
California may be finally beginning to move toward harnessing the significant renewable energy position of the offshore winds. The United States Department of the Interior has initiated a process to allow offshore wind developers to lease lands in federal waters off central and northern California. The federal government has published a report on the proposed offshore wind farm lease locations and the procedures. The federal government has also opened a comment period on the proposed offshore wind farm lease sale. Offshore wind developers will be required to go through federal and state reviews, before any construction can begin.

In my opinion, it is now time for California, Oregon and Washington to move into the twenty-first century and develop the vast potential of offshore wind. On September 10, 2018, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a mandate requiring the state’s power sector to abandon all fossil fuels by 2045. Although I applaud the law, it is meaningless unless the state takes action to develop all the state’s renewable energy resources. Oregon and Washington have done far less to develop their state’s renewable energy resources than California. Personally, I am voting for candidates that support renewable energy, regardless of their political party.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *