The first-ever federal auction of floating offshore wind power sites off the Pacific coast ended Wednesday with bids totaling $757 million. When fully developed, the sites could power 1.5 million homes. The turbines will float in water as much as half a mile deep more than 20 miles off the California coast and send electricity ashore via cables along the seabed. “Today’s lease sale is further proof that industry momentum – including for floating offshore wind development – is undeniable,” said Department of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
They mark the beginnings of a critical U.S.-based industry to build floating offshore wind turbines and the technology and know-how that goes with them, said Stephanie McClellan, executive director of Turn Forward, an offshore wind advocacy organization. The leases were offered by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees offshore energy and mineral projects. Each lease is for 25 years. The leases were for two areas, one off the coast near Eureka, near the Oregon border, and one off the southern California coast near Morro Bay, north of Santa Barbara. These deep-water sites are all 20 miles and more offshore, enough that they will largely not be visible to people onshore.
The sea is a good place for wind
Placing turbines far out to sea has multiple advantages, experts say. First, the ocean is windy. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates U.S. offshore wind has the potential to generate up to 2,000 gigawatts of electricity, nearly double the amount the United States currently uses. Ocean winds also blow more consistently and tend to peak in the evening, just as power from solar arrays drops. Today, offshore wind turbines are still an expensive way to produce energy compared with other methods, but that is changing rapidly.
Electricity from all wind turbines was 70% cheaper in 2021 than it was in 2009, according to Lazard, a financial advisory firm that publishes annual estimates on energy production costs. Experts told the Department of Energy in 2021 they expect offshore wind costs to fall by as much as another 35% by 2035, and almost 50% by 2050. The United States, which has thousands of miles of coastline and world-class offshore wind, is especially well-positioned to capitalize on this energy resource.