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Floating wind in the frame as California opts for 100% clean energy

Wed 12 Sep 2018 by David Foxwell

Floating wind in the frame as California opts for 100% clean energy
Governor Jerry Brown wants 50% of California’s electricity to be green by 2025 and 60% by 2030, with a long-term goal of a zero-carbon electricity grid

Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation setting a goal of 100% clean energy for California, a move that could accelerate plans to build floating offshore windfarms off the coast of the Golden State

The bill signed by the governor, SB 100, advances the state’s existing Renewables Portfolio Standard, which establishes how much of the electricity system should be powered from renewable energy resources, to 50% by 2025 and 60% by 2030. It also puts California on the bold path to implement a zero-carbon electricity grid by 2045.

“This bill and the executive order put California on a path to meet the goals of Paris and beyond. It will not be easy. It will not be immediate. But it must be done,” said Governor Brown.

“California is committed to doing whatever is necessary to meet the existential threat of climate change,” said Governor Brown. “This bill will help us go in that direction. But have no illusions, California and the rest of the world have miles to go before we achieve zero-carbon emissions.”

Responding to the signing of the bill, Business Network for Offshore Wind executive director Liz Burdock said Governor Brown and the state of California had taken a historic leap forward for clean energy.

“Recent commercial advancements in floating technology mean California’s offshore wind resource is an awakening goliath. By including offshore wind as a key resource to meet its new goal, California will grow local businesses, create thousands of good jobs, attract billions of dollars in private investment and deliver not only clean but affordable electricity to California’s grid,” she said.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates the state’s net offshore wind capacity at 112 GW with a net annual energy potential of 392 terawatt hours (TWhr), even after excluding areas for military, environmental and other uses. To put this in context, California’s entire 2017 electricity generation from both in-state and imported power sources was 292 TWhr – 100 TWhr less than the state’s offshore wind energy potential.

“Today’s bill signing is especially exciting because of its scale. Experience has shown that bold state policy goals are key to establishing an offshore wind development pipeline over time,” she said. “This unlocks even greater private sector investment in regional port infrastructure, manufacturing and other supply chain jobs, all of which drive costs down further.”

So far, offshore wind activity in the US has focused mainly on the East Coast. States from Massachusetts to South Carolina have set offshore wind targets totalling almost 9 GW by the 2030s. Recent state-level commitments and advances in permitting and energy offtake processes have seen the US offshore wind project development pipeline exceed 25 GW, according to the US Department of Energy.

Prices have been falling dramatically: two years ago, Rhode Island’s Block Island offshore windfarm came online at a price of US$0.22 per kilowatt hour (kWhr). Last year, Maryland’s two offshore windfarm contracts came in at US$0.134/kWhr, a drop of almost 40% in one year. And last month, Massachusetts announced a levelised electricity price of US$0.065 per kWhr, less than 50% of the Maryland price announced just a year before. A report from the Green Economy Programme at the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California, Berkeley suggests that floating offshore wind energy could play a leading role as a source of green energy and employment.

“SB 100 positions the Golden State to reap the benefits of this growing industry,” Ms Burdock said. “California’s offshore wind resource is the perfect balance to the state’s massive solar programme, because it provides peak power in the winter and in the late afternoon/early evening, when electricity demand is high and solar production is less strong.”

17 September 2018 will see the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) hold a California Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force meeting in Sacramento, California. The meeting will be held at The Citizen Hotel, 926 J Street, Sacramento, California 95814, 8.30 am to 3.00 pm.

The purpose of the meeting is to review and discuss a call for information and nominations on areas for potential leasing for offshore wind development, the next step in BOEM's planning process for possible future leasing.

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