California Dreaming Of Offshore Wind

The current population of the state of California is estimated to be 40.02 million people. In January 2019, state utilities used natural gas (52.6%), renewable energy (36.0%), nuclear (11.3%) and coal (0.1%) to generate electricity. Solar, hydropower and geothermal are the primary sources of renewable energy in California.

Over the past few years, California utilities have incurred significant costs to replace infrastructure destroyed from forest fires. The utilities have also closed inefficient, high cost coal-fueled power plants. These costs have contributed to California’s high electricity prices. In January 2019, the average cost of electricity in California was U.S. 18.3 ¢ per kWh, which is the 7th most expensive price in the United States. The average price of electricity in the United States is 12.5 ¢ per kWh.

Concerns over global warming and climate change have prompted state leaders to accelerate the move from fossil fuels to renewable energy. On September 10, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill mandating 50% of California’s electricity be powered by renewable resources by 2025, 60% by 2030 and zero-carbon electricity emissions by 2045. California was the first of several states that have now mandated zero-carbon electricity emissions.

Winds offshore are stronger and more consistent than winds onshore. Europe has been developing major offshore wind projects for over a decade. The first offshore wind farm in the United States commenced operation in December 2017 off the coast of Rhode Island. Most of the states along the eastern sea board are actively pursuing offshore wind projects to replace fossil fueled power plants. Offshore wind may finally become a reality off the coast of California.

In October 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Offshore Energy Management (BOEM) issued a call for companies to express interest in developing floating offshore wind projects in three specific areas off the coast of California. Fourteen companies have formally expressed interest in bidding for offshore commercial wind leases off the coast of Diablo Canyon, Morro Bay or Humboldt County. The BOEM anticipates conducting a competitive offshore commercial wind lease sale for California in 2020.

The strongest winds in the United States are off the coast of California and Oregon. Offshore wind projects could easily replace the power provided by fossil fuel plants. Without offshore wind, I doubt California will be able to meet the zero-carbon electricity emissions goal by 2045.

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