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Offshore Wind Journal

Floating offshore wind could have huge economic benefits for California

Fri 20 May 2016 by David Foxwell

Floating offshore wind could have huge economic benefits for California

The development of floating offshore windfarms off the coast of California could have huge economic benefits according to a report produced by The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in the US. The study was funded by the US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), through Interagency Agreement M14PG00038 with the US Department of Energy.

Floating Offshore Wind in California: Gross Potential for Jobs and Economic Impacts from Two Future Scenarios looked at two scenarios for the development of offshore wind energy in the state. Both demonstrated that offshore wind could contribute to the economic development of California in the near term, with even greater impacts seen in later years (2040–2050). 

Construction of the first offshore windfarm in the US began in 2015, using fixed structures appropriate for shallow water. However, floating platforms, which have yet to be deployed commercially, will probably be needed to anchor windfarms if deployed off the West Coast of the US where water depths are greater.

To analyse the employment and economic potential for floating offshore wind along the West Coast, the BOEM commissioned the NREL to analyse two hypothetical, large-scale deployment scenarios for California: 16GW of offshore wind by 2050 (Scenario A) and 10GW of offshore wind by 2050 (Scenario B). Assumptions for the analysis came from projected electricity demand in California, the estimated offshore wind resource, discussions with industry, and ongoing work at NREL to characterise current and future costs of floating offshore wind. Many of the cost inputs come from NREL’s internal Offshore Wind Balance of System (BOS) model. Scenario A had more turbines that are installed at a faster rate with more components produced and services procured locally. Scenario B has fewer turbines installed and less local content.

The results show total state gross domestic product (GDP) impacts of US$16.2 billion in Scenario B or US$39.7 billion in Scenario A for construction; and US$3.5 billion in Scenario B or US$7.9 billion in Scenario A for the operations phases. Another key finding from the work was the sensitivity of the results to the size of the in-state supply chain.

The report may be downloaded from BOEM’s Recently Completed Environmental Studies–Pacific webpage.

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