Distributed Energy Resources

California Energy Commission Sets Preliminary 25 GW By 2045 Offshore Wind Goal

The California Energy Commission (CEC) recently adopted a report establishing offshore wind goals, bringing the state one step closer to developing its coastal resources.

Preliminary findings of the report set planning goals of 2,000 to 5,000 megawatts (MW) of offshore wind by 2030 and 25,000 MW by 2045.

 The report is the first of four that the CEC has been directed to produce by AB 525 by no later than June 30, 2023. Under the legislation, the CEC, in coordination with federal, state, and local agencies and a wide variety of stakeholders, must develop a strategic plan for offshore wind energy developments off the California coast in federal waters and submit it to the California Natural Resources Agency and the state’s Legislature.

Among other conclusions, the CEC said that for 2030 it would be “prudent” to have the AB 525 strategic plan evaluate at least the current adopted 2032 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) amount of offshore wind of 1,700 MW, potentially up to nearly 5,000 MW, which is what can be accommodated on existing transmission.

Offshore wind capacity beyond that amount “appears infeasible from a transmission perspective by 2030, the report found. For 2045, “there is greater possibility of achieving some or all of the transmission upgrades examined by the state’s ISO [independent system operator],” the report said, concluding that “this suggests the CEC may consider establishing a MW planning goal for 2045 of at least 10 GW to 14.3 GW for 2045.”

The authors of the report also recommended that the complementary nature of offshore wind to solar power outputs, both daily and in the winter, suggests that the CEC should establish offshore wind planning goals that are “reasonably higher” than the current adopted amount of offshore wind in the state’s IRP.

The report’s authors cautioned, however, “the recommended MW planning goals do not consider potential impacts to ocean use and environmental considerations.” They added, “the assessment of potential impacts and the strategies for addressing those impacts that are identified for the strategic plan will inform and may potentially limit the amount of maximum feasible capacity of offshore wind and the MW planning goals that are ultimately identified in the strategic plan.”

CEC staff will next study the economic benefits of offshore wind in relation to seaport investments and workforce development needs. The staff will also create a roadmap to develop a permitting process for offshore wind energy facilities and associated electricity and transmission infrastructure. The entire plan must be submitted to the Legislature by June 2023.

Plans for renovations to prepare for offshore wind activities are already under way at the Port of Humboldt Bay with $10.5 million in funding approved by the CEC earlier this year. Governor Gavin Newsom’s 2022–23 budget proposes an additional $45 million for other needed upgrades at waterfront facilities.