Offshore wind has the potential to be a major economic driver and energy solution for California, but time is running out for policymakers to take action. California set its first offshore wind goal last year, aiming for 25 gigawatts by 2045, enough to power 25 million homes. However, experts believe that the state should aim even higher to combat climate change, strengthen the electric grid, and boost the economy.
Research conducted by Energy Innovation, GridLab, and UC Berkeley suggests that with the right state and federal policies, California could install over 100 gigawatts of offshore wind farms along the West Coast by 2050. These wind farms would primarily be located off California’s shores. With tax incentives and falling technology prices, the cost of electricity from offshore wind turbines would be comparable to onshore wind turbines and solar farms.
Furthermore, California’s efforts in scaling up offshore wind could serve as an example for the rest of the country. While countries like China and Northern European nations have already made significant progress in offshore wind installation, the United States is just beginning to tap into its potential. The Biden administration aims to produce 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030, but experts believe the ambition should be raised to 400-500 gigawatts by 2050.
Concerns about the impact on views have been addressed by ensuring that offshore wind projects are located far enough from the shore to have minimal impact. Current projects in Massachusetts, for example, are being built 15 miles off the coast. Similar plans are in place for the West Coast, with lease areas starting at least 13.8 miles off the coast.
In addition to its economic benefits, offshore wind can also help California maintain a reliable power supply during heat waves and rising electricity demand. Pacific winds blow most consistently during the summer when temperatures are highest, filling the gap when solar generation falls.
However, in order to capitalize on offshore wind potential, California needs to act quickly. The timeline from planning a wind farm to generating power is approximately 14 years, and the construction of port and factory infrastructure can take up to a decade. Policy action is critical, including setting higher offshore wind targets, coordinating with neighboring states on power line projects, and directing funding towards port investments and workforce training programs.
California has long been a leader in clean energy technology and climate solutions, but it lags behind Europe and China in offshore wind development. By embracing offshore wind now, California can reap the economic and climate benefits sooner.