The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management conducted the first ever sale of leases for offshore wind along the west coast of the United States recently. Equinor secured a 2 gigawatt lease in the Morro Bay area near San Luis Obisbo that has the potential to generate enough electricity to power 750,000 US homes.
Offshore wind is not the same on the west coast as it is on the east. The continental shelf in the east is wide and relatively shallow, making wind turbines built on the ocean floor the preferred option. But the continental shelf on the west coast is narrow and drops off steeply to depths that make building foundations on the ocean floor impractical. For that reason, floating wind turbines are the preferred choice for that area.
Equinor says about two-thirds of America’s offshore wind energy potential is in deep waters. As the world’s leading floating offshore wind operator and developer, it looks forward to applying its experience to create a sustainable offshore wind industry in California. Following regulatory approvals, the new lease will be added to Equinor’s existing US portfolio, which includes the Empire Wind and Beacon Wind projects on the US Northeast coast.
“We are delighted to get the opportunity to explore the potential for producing even more renewable energy for the US, this time in the Pacific Ocean. The US West Coast is one of the most attractive growth regions for floating offshore wind in the world due to its favorable wind conditions and proximity to markets that need reliable, clean energy.
“Offshore wind on the west coast could help achieve the state’s clean energy goals, bolster renewable energy sources, and create new jobs and investments in California. The US is a key market for Equinor’s offshore wind activities and one where we aspire to be a leader in growing this new energy industry,” says Molly Morris, president of Equinor Wind US.
Pål Eitrheim, executive vice president of renewables at Equinor adds, “Today’s announcement confirms Equinor’s floating leadership and strong commitment to deliver renewable energy to the US. It adds at least another potential 2 GW to our existing 3.3 GW US offshore wind portfolio. We were among the first movers into US offshore wind and are now one of the first movers into California, a market we believe will become a strategic floating market globally. We now have the scale needed to optimize value across our US and Asia-Pacific portfolio.”
The Biden administration has set an offshore wind target of 30 GW by 2030 and 15 GW by 2035 in floating offshore wind capacity. That is 100 times more than the amount currently installed in floating wind installations around the world. The administration’s offshore wind target is complemented by state offshore wind policies and actions throughout the North Pacific, with California setting an offshore wind target of up to 5 GW by 2030 and 25 GW floating offshore wind by 2045.
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