On May 25, 2021, the Biden administration (acting through the Departments of Defense and Interior) and the State of California announced their agreement to advance areas for offshore wind off the northern and central coasts of California. This milestone is significant in many respects—not the least of which it sets the stage for including the Pacific Coast as part of the Biden administration’s goal to create thousands of jobs through the deployment of 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind by 2030.1
The Department of the Interior, in cooperation with the Department of Defense and the State of California, has identified an area (Morro Bay 399 Area) that will support 3 GW of offshore wind on roughly 399 square miles off California's central coast region, northwest of Morro Bay.
The Department of the Interior is also advancing the Humboldt Call Area, located off northern California, as a potential Wind Energy Area (WEA).
Both areas were included in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) Call for Information and Nominations for offshore wind on October 19, 2018,2 for three areas off the central and northern coasts of California and will enable the buildout of up to 4.6 GW of clean energy to the grid, enough to power 1.6 million homes.
Following the task force meeting, the WEAs can be finalized and will undergo environmental analysis; BOEM will also undertake government-to-government tribal consultation. The processes for the northern and central coasts will then be merged in a Proposed Sale Notice (PSN) for one lease sale auction, targeted for mid-2022.
Given the ocean depths at likely installation locations, floating platform technologies are expected to be used by successful bidders at such auction, and by mid-2022, almost two years’ worth of meteorological and oceanographic data from the two buoys deployed by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) should be available through the PNNL Data Archive and Portal to wind researchers.
1 Discussed in more detail in our March 30, 2021, Perspective “Biden Administration Jumpstarts Offshore Wind Energy Projects to Create Jobs.”
2 Available, together with other California offshore wind resources, at https://www.boem.gov/california.
3 Past task force meeting materials are available at Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force Meetings | Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (boem.gov).