“The next major step forward for clean energy in the Golden State”
“Ushering in a new era of renewable energy in the United States”
“The opening of a whole new frontier for the global floating sector”
The Central Coast is once again in the national energy spotlight, with the superlative-rich federal auction of the Morro Bay offshore wind leases — a first for the West Coast, a first for commercial-scale floating offshore wind in the US, the largest by far in the global floating wind industry.
The auction — with combined bids of $425 million for the 3 Morro Bay leases — is a major milestone that sets off a years-long process toward getting turbines in the water, targeted for 2030.
While much lies ahead, one thing is clear: The region is coming together to foster this new global industry and proactively shape its growth on the Central Coast.
25 regional leaders — representing both San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties, cities, chambers, higher education and REACH — signed on to a joint letter to the lease winners expressing the community’s interest in partnering to responsibly advance offshore wind on the Central Coast.
“We welcome collaboration to build a strong partnership with the Central Coast’s residents, workforce and businesses,” the letter states, detailing the region’s existing transmission capacity, array of waterfront infrastructure options, skilled workforce and world-class regional universities and training providers.
The letter also underscores a commitment to robust dialogue with a broad array of community stakeholders on potential impacts, challenges and opportunities.
It’s so exciting for the Central Coast to be part of this historic step toward a cleaner energy future. This is a transformative opportunity for our region and it’s fantastic to see broad-based, bipartisan support for thoughtfully welcoming this new industry into our community. We’re looking forward to working with the lease winners to create a bright energy, climate and economic future for our region, our state and our nation.
— REACH President/CEO Melissa James
The auction is the culmination of years of work by federal, state, regional and local officials and other stakeholders. Most recently, the County of SLO, County of Santa Barbara and City of Morro Bay partnered with REACH to advance a waterfront infrastructure study to explore how the region could play a role in this emerging sector. This summer, the state also allocated funding to the County of SLO for further feasibility studies to prepare for offshore wind.
The auction was also the first to include provisions for investments in workforce training, supply chain development and mitigating impacts on a range of communities — investments that could come to our region. Between the Morro Bay and Humboldt leases, the workforce and supply chain credits will result in over $117 million in investments, the federal announcement stated. More to come on this as we learn what each company has planned.
Meet the Winners
Equinor is a Norwegian oil and renewable energy company and one of the country’s largest offshore wind developers, with two lease areas under development in New York that combined will power 2 million homes.
“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,” said Pål Eitrheim, executive vice president of Renewables in Equinor.
Central California Offshore Wind
Central California Offshore Wind is part of Golden State Wind, a joint venture between Ocean Winds and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPP Investments). Ocean Winds is a French and Portuguese venture with a portfolio of projects in Europe, the U.S. and Asia. The partnership has committed to investing $30 million in workforce development and supply chain initiatives and to work closely with key local stakeholders to maximize the benefits to California from the emerging offshore wind industry.
“This is the perfect opportunity to further expand our portfolio and contribute to the federal government’s ambitious floating offshore wind targets,” Ocean Winds North America CEO Michael Brown said.
Invenergy California Offshore Wind
The only U.S.-backed venture among all five provisional winners, Invenergy is a Chicago-based energy company with large-scale wind, solar, and natural gas projects as well as advanced energy storage facilities across the world.
“We’re thrilled to be named winners in the BOEM California offshore wind energy auction! Our lease area has an estimated 1.5+ GW installation capacity, representing the potential to power nearly half a million American homes,” the company posted on Twitter.
Why offshore wind?
Both state and federal administrations are looking to strong ocean winds to provide a new source of clean renewable energy. The Morro Bay and Humboldt lease areas are projected to provide at least 4.5 gigawatts of energy – likely more – enough for 1.5 million homes. These and similar projects will increase energy resilience, help meet the rising demand from electric cars, and help the state and nation reach ambitious clean energy goals.
What happens next?
Once the winning bids are certified, each of the companies will have up to a year to submit site assessment plans to BOEM, outlining how they will evaluate their site for potential wind farm development. They then have up to five years to submit a construction and operations plan. A range of local, state and federal permits are required along the way.
What’s the status of the waterfront infrastructure study?
The Waterfront Infrastructure study for both the offshore wind and space industries is being wrapped up and is expected to be released before the end of the year. REACH and our study partners look forward to exploring the options with the lease winners and the Central Coast community, as well as the state and federal government.