Whelp, that was fast. Yesterday the prospect of harvesting offshore wind power along the California coast was so much pixie dust. Today it’s a matter of when, not if. To underscore the point, a new report from an organization called the American Jobs Project is already toting up the number of offshore wind jobs coming to California, with an assist from big-time investors.
What’s Up With California Offshore Wind?
After a long delay, states along the US east coast are finally forging ahead with offshore wind projects. Meanwhile, California is lagging behind.
Aside from any political considerations, the problem is a technological one. East coast waters are relatively shallow. You can build turbines using conventional foundations that have already proved themselves in commercial use overseas.
Rhode Island already has a smallish, five-turbine offshore wind farm in operation, and hundreds more turbines are in the pipeline there and in several other east coast states.
The west coast is a different kettle of fish. The water is too deep for conventional foundations.
For a while now the US Department of Energy has been promoting floating turbines as a solution, and now that is finally gaining traction.
California Offshore Wind Jobs On The Rise
A new governmental agency called the Redwood Coast Energy Authority is among those leading the charge for offshore wind energy in California.
RCEA covers Humboldt County, the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District, and the cities of Arcata, Blue Lake, Eureka, Ferndale, Fortuna, Rio Dell, and Trinidad.
The new report from the American Jobs Project demonstrates that RCEA is not just whistling in the wind. Though emphasizing that California offshore wind development needs to accommodate US Navy activities, the report sees gold in the water:
We estimate that if California were to install 18 GW of offshore wind capacity by 2045, the state could support over 17,500 jobs in the offshore wind industry, related downstream industries, and surrounding economy in that year.
That 18 gigawatts is actually a conservative baseline. The state’s “technical” offshore wind resources add up to 112 gigawatts, well over the state’s current electricity needs.
The strong, consistent quality of wind in open waters is the motivating force behind offshore wind development, despite the technological challenges of floating turbines out in the sea. The report notes that the quality of those winds can beat the pants off other energy sources:
Scientists project that California’s floating offshore wind turbines could reach capacity factors of over 70 percent, in other words, generating 70 percent of their maximum theoretical output. This capacity factor is two to three times that of solar, nearly twice that of land-based wind, and even greater than that of coal.
The Green New Deal, Offshore Wind Edition
For the record, the report is titled, “The California Offshore Wind Project: A Vision for Industry Growth,” and it was prepared with the Schatz Energy Research Center at Humboldt State University, Pacific Ocean Energy Trust, and BVG Associates.
CleanTechnica spoke with lead author Mary Collins last week, and she made some solid points about the connection between energy jobs and clean power. Green New Deal or not, the big bucks are heading into deep waters (following comments edited for clarity and flow):
CleanTechnica: What is different about California in terms of offshore wind technology?
Collins: We have deep waters, so we need to utilize different technology. We see new types of floating foundation come into commercialization, and we see a lot of oil companies investing in these technologies — for example, Shell. It shows the trends happening with respect to technology. The technology is here.
Here in California we have different resources close to where people live, and these clean electricity goals need diverse to be diverse. Offshore wind is another tool in the toolkit.
CleanTechnica: What is the importance of local energy?
Collins: We have very high wind speeds off the coast of California. In the north near proposed RCEA project, it’s over 10 meters per second. It really matches well up and down the coast
Also in Morro Bay, that proposed project will be up to 1 gigawatt. We’re looking at the decommissioning of Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, so we need to think about big, bold solutions. We can’t rely on just one technology.
The cost of energy storage is coming down but a diverse resource mix is still needed. California has the “duck curve,” and its something we think about here. The sun sets and solar resources come offline, but offshore wind peaks just as sun is setting.
CleanTechnica: Tell us about the job connection.
Collins: The offshore wind industry is growing tremendously, up 25% globally through 2022. In California we have the opportunity to create 17,500 jobs in a variety of fields such as project management and manufacturing.
With more activity, the result is more jobs up and down the supply chain and increased spending at our ports.
All of the developers [that are interested in the RCEA project] have European counterparts. They are local companies with big backers and they have their technologies deployed in other countries.
We want to ignite a greater conversation in CA about what the offshore wind market will look like in 2045 because that’s our clean electricity goal. We are going to have offshore wind and we need to decide what its going to look like.
More Floating Turbines On The Way
Got all that? A company called Castle Wind is another outfit racing to get its floating turbines into California waters with the help of major overseas investors.
Castle is a joint venture between Trident Winds and EnBW North America, which is this:
…a wholly owned subsidiary of EnBW AG, one of the largest energy supply companies in Germany and in Europe. With a workforce of over 20,000 employees, it supplies electricity, gas, water and energy-related products and services to 5.5 million customers.
Who! Gentlepeople, start your engines.
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Photo: Josh Bauer, National Renewable Energy Laboratory.