Biden admin, California agree to bring offshore wind farms to Pacific coast

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WASHINGTON — The Biden administration announced an agreement Tuesday with California’s governor to earmark two areas in the Pacific Ocean for offshore wind farms, aiming to bring power-generating turbines to the West Coast that have only slowly started to take off on the East Coast.

The White House said two areas being eyed for offshore wind could produce up to 4.6 gigawatts of renewable energy, ultimately powering as many as 1.6 million homes. The first, a 399-square-mile swath of ocean known as the Morro Bay 399 Area, lies off California’s central coast and could produce 3 gigawatts. The other, the Humboldt Call Area off Northern California, is being considered by the Interior Department as a future Wind Energy Area.

“We're talking about a game-changing investment in a green energy future,” California Gov. Gavin Newsom said. “This state is not being passive with this announcement."

He said in anticipation of the announcement, California had already put tens of millions of dollars in its budget for environmental reviews, engineering and design, and upgrades to ports and power lines that will ferry electricity from offshore farms to California homes.

Installing wind turbines off the West Coast won’t be easy: The floor of the Pacific Ocean gets far deeper far closer to the shore than the Atlantic Ocean. That means the California farms will require “new floating offshore wind technology,” developed in part through investments by the Energy Department, the White House said.

Colin Kahl, the undersecretary of defense for policy, said the Defense Department had coordinated closely with California and with the Interior Department to ensure testing, training and other U.S. military operations carried out in Pacific waters aren’t negatively affected.

In March, the Biden administration took its first major step toward boosting offshore wind in the U.S. by setting a new target: 30 gigawatts by 2030, enough to power millions of American homes. Accomplishing that goal would require massively ramping up production that has never fully taken off in the U.S.

“Now, we’re thinking big and thinking bold,” national climate adviser Gina McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday.

As of now, the U.S. has a paltry seven wind turbines, all off the East Coast, with only one operational offshore commercial wind farm, although several utility-scale projects are in development.

Under Biden, the Interior Department has also created a new Wind Energy Area offshore between Long Island and the New Jersey coast, and has moved ahead rapidly with permitting and reviews for Ocean Wind, a major project planned off the coast of New Jersey that will be the third commercial offshore wind project for the U.S.

Ramping up U.S. power generation from renewable sources like wind, solar and geothermal are critical toward meeting President Joe Biden’s goals of zeroing out greenhouse gas emissions from the power sector by 2035 and economy-wide by 2050.

At an offshore wind conference earlier Tuesday hosted by Reuters, Amanda Lefton, who directs the Interior Department’s ocean energy bureau, said the administration plans to advance or finish reviewing at least 16 new offshore wind projects by 2025, potentially adding up to 18 gigawatts of wind power to the grid.

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