U.S. aims to fast-track offshore wind development with expansion to California

by Reuters
Tuesday, 25 May 2021 18:56 GMT

A construction crane floats next to a barge carrying jacket support structures and a platform for a turbine for a wind farm in the waters of the Atlantic Ocean off Block Island, Rhode Island July 27, 2015. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

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The effort is part of the administration's broader plan to fight climate change by decarbonizing the U.S. power sector by 2035

(Adds details from White House announcement on California wind areas, quotes from call with officials)

By Valerie Volcovici and Nichola Groom

WASHINGTON/LOS ANGELES, May 25 (Reuters) - The Biden administration will seek to approve more than a dozen offshore wind projects in the next four years and open the coast off California to development as it seeks to supercharge the nascent U.S. industry, officials said on Tuesday.

The effort is part of the administration's broader plan to fight climate change by decarbonizing the U.S. power sector by 2035 and the entire economy by 2050.

Amanda Lefton, director of Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, told the Reuters U.S. Offshore Wind conference that the agency would complete the review of at least 16 new offshore wind project plans by 2025.

The projects could add as much as 19 gigawatts of clean power to the U.S. grid, Lefton said, putting the nation well on its way to meeting President Joe Biden's goal to deploy 30 GW of offshore wind energy - enough to power 10 million homes - by 2030.

The White House also announced that it had identified two areas off the coast of California for offshore wind development, a critical milestone in its aim to expand the industry to Pacific waters. It plans to auction a lease in one of those areas in the middle of 2022.

"Now we are thinking big and thinking bold," White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy said on a call with reporters.

The two areas, one 20 miles off the central coast near Morro Bay and another off Humboldt County near the Oregon border, could eventually be home to 4.6 gigawatts of offshore wind projects, enough to power 1.6 million homes, officials said.

The projects will assist California, which has among the most aggressive climate change policies in the nation, in its goal to remove fossil fuels from its power grid by 2045.

"It's only fitting that California is totally unwilling to let the expansion that we are witnessing on the east coast leave California behind," McCarthy said.

The California announcement comes after three years of collaboration between the Departments of Interior and Defense, officials said. The U.S. conducts significant military testing and training operations off the California coast, presenting a challenge for offshore wind development.

Once finalized in the coming weeks, the two areas will undergo environmental analysis to determine the areas most suitable for leasing.

Interior earlier in May approved the nation's first commercial-scale offshore wind farm, the Vineyard Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts. With just two small offshore wind facilities, the United States is decades behind Europe in developing the technology.

BOEM has leased 1.7 million acres of the U.S. outer continental shelf for offshore wind development, with 17 commercial leases on the Atlantic coast, and expects to hold a new lease sale off the coast of New York by the end of this year or the beginning of 2022.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Nichola Groom; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall and Nick Zieminski)

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