Envisioning Offshore Wind for California


June 2021

On May 25, 2021, the Biden Administration and the State of California jointly announced their intent to advance floating offshore wind in two locations along California’s coast—a 399 square mile area located offshore of Morro Bay and an area offshore of Humboldt—with lease auctions expected in 2022. This followed on the heels of a federal announcement in late March establishing a nationwide offshore wind energy target of 30 GW by 2030. Offshore wind could become an essential piece of California’s renewable energy puzzle while delivering on multiple statewide goals, from tackling climate change and addressing environmental justice to building a just transition and unlocking new economic opportunities. But none of these desirable goals can happen without a robust and far-sighted planning process that includes Californians’ diverse interests. 

CLEE’s new report, Envisioning Offshore Wind for California, provides an overview of the challenges and opportunities. The report suggests priority actions to ensure a comprehensive, strategic approach to this new-to-California industry. It builds from input provided during two workshops from a wide range of participants, including local governments, non-profit organizations, labor representatives, fishermen, renewable energy developers, and more. CLEE convened these workshops with the intent of catalyzing broad and open conversations around OSW and determining potential pathways for future state action.

Among other findings and suggestions, the report notes that:

  • California would benefit from an overarching offshore wind vision. Without a comprehensive strategy, California may lose the opportunity to maximize positive, equitable impacts and minimize adverse effects on the ocean and communities dependent on it. It is also essential that tradeoffs be made in a transparent forum. 
  • Stakeholders may benefit from a regular forum for ongoing offshore wind discussion that would help information flow more readily. This is especially important for keeping parties engaged and informed between decisionmaking points. 
  • While several agencies provide valuable leadership on offshore wind, establishing a centralized point of contact (a point person, existing agency, interagency working group, or new entity) responsible for gathering and distributing information about California’s OSW activities would boost transparency and ensure that all parties are working from the same baseline information. This entity could also help establish cross-cutting principles for offshore wind development.

Recent federal and state attention on California’s offshore wind potential only heightens the importance of these issues. Floating offshore wind is just emerging around the world. California has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to envision a new resource and set a gold standard for those that follow. 

You can access the full report here.

For more information, contact Jordan Diamond or Katie Segal