California seeks to catch up as US offshore gains tailwinds

A federal agency is looking to hear from interested developers after Trident Winds proposed a 765MW offshore wind project along California’s coast.

With the nation's first offshore wind farm completed last week, a US federal agency is seeking interested developers for a project lease off the coast of California.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), a division of the Department of Interior, has issued a request for interest in a 68,000 acre lease area to build an offshore wind farm. One developer, Trident Winds, has already proposed a 765MW floating wind project in the area. If no other developer expresses interest, BOEM can issue a lease without holding an auction.

Trident's proposal would consist of 100 floating foundations, each supporting a wind turbine generating between 7MW and 8MW.

California is by far the nation's leader when it comes to solar generation, and the state has set the goal to meet 50 percent of its energy needs with renewable energy by 2030.

“This announcement represents a significant step in facilitating the responsible development of offshore renewable energy to help California meet its energy needs,” BOEM director Abigail Ross Hopper said in a statement. “We are working closely with the State of California, industry and a broad range of stakeholders to ensure that planning for future commercial wind leasing is done in a transparent manner that engages stakeholders throughout the process.”

The US' east and west coasts have tremendous offshore wind potential. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory said the area off the west coast and Hawaii could generate enough energy to power 500 million homes. However, offshore development has been nonexistent compared to Europe.

The US' first offshore wind farm reached completion last week off the coast of Rhode Island. The 30MW Block Island project, developed by Deepwater Wind, is the first to overcome the economic and regulatory hurdles that have plagued the US market.

Meanwhile, Europe connected 511MW of offshore wind capacity to the grid in the first half of this year alone . Around €14 billion was invested in its offshore industry from January through the end of June, according to trade association WindEurope.

In June, BOEM announced it was auctioning 80,000 acres south of Long Island in New York for offshore wind projects. The agency has also identified 10 other zones for offshore development along the East Coast, including Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia.