A directive set forth by Assembly Bill 525 (AB 525, Chiu, Chapter 231, Statutes of 2021) directs that on or before June 1, 2022, the California Energy Commission (CEC) shall “evaluate and quantify the maximum feasible capacity of offshore wind to achieve reliability, ratepayer, employment, and decarbonization benefits and shall establish megawatt offshore wind planning goals for 2030 and 2045.” On August 12, 2022, the CEC adopted a report whose preliminary findings set planning goals of 2,000-5,000 MW of offshore wind by 2030 and 25,000 MW by 2045. REGlobal presents an extract from this CEC Report, “Offshore Wind Energy Development off the California Coast.”
To assess the potential quantity of maximum feasible capacity of offshore wind to achieve reliability, ratepayer, employment, and decarbonization benefits and establish offshore wind MW planning goals for 2030 and 2045, CEC staff used available information to evaluate considerations specified in AB 525. These considerations include floating offshore wind technologies, potential impacts, and infrastructure requirements. The statutory deadline for establishing the MW planning goals and identifying maximum feasible capacity for offshore wind is before completion of the sea space evaluation, which is needed to inform identifying maximum feasible capacity.
Offshore Wind Technical Potential
Based on existing studies described in this report, nearly 21.8 GW of offshore wind technical potential of the 201 GW of the gross resource estimate has been identified and examined for technical feasibility. This number does not represent the quantification of maximum feasible capacity of offshore wind as defined in this report and required by AB 525; it simply represents the offshore wind technical potential that has been studied to date. The estimates of technical potential used in these studies do not account for other important factors such as competing uses or environmental considerations, which will significantly reduce the technical potential. Similarly, technological advancements or identification of new suitable areas may increase the technical potential.
Offshore Wind Megawatt Planning Goals
To establish offshore wind MW planning goals, CEC staff evaluated five factors of particular importance. A summary of the evaluation for each of the five factors as well as additional information considered and how they guide the MW planning goals are provided below.
1, The findings of the 2021 SB 100 Joint Agency Report: The 2021 SB 100 Joint Agency Report advises the offshore wind MW planning goals, suggesting the CEC set a minimum of 10 GW for offshore wind as a planning goal for 2045. The report also concludes that offshore wind can contribute to increased resource diversity, which helps lower overall system costs.
2. Initiating long-term transmission and infrastructure planning to expedite delivery of offshore wind energy to Californians: The development of new transmission capacity has been identified as necessary to deliver offshore wind power from the North Coast to California load centers. For 2030, it is prudent to have the AB 525 strategic plan evaluate at least the current adopted 2032 IRP amount of offshore wind of 1.7 GW, potentially up to nearly 5 GW, which is what can be accommodated on existing transmission. An amount beyond this appears infeasible from a transmission perspective by 2030. For 2045, there is greater possibility of achieving some or all of the transmission upgrades examined by the ISO. This suggests the CEC may consider establishing a MW planning goal for 2045 of at least 10 GW to 14.3 GW for 2045.
3. The need for reliable renewable energy that accommodates California’s shifting peak load: The need for renewable energy to accommodate California’s shifting peak load guides the maximum feasible capacity of offshore wind and the MW planning goals. The complementary nature of offshore wind to solar, both daily and in the winter, suggests the CEC establish offshore wind MW planning goals that are reasonably higher than the current adopted amount of offshore wind in IRP. These higher planning goals would allow flexibility as IRP and TPP and other LSEs in the state continue to direct the optimal procurement of generation and transmission for ratepayers over the coming years. Allowing for a buffer above the current adopted amount in IRP helps prepare California to take advantage of the generation profile of offshore wind to help ensure California meets its SB 100 energy goals.
4. The generation profile of offshore wind off the California coast: This goes hand in hand with the shifting peak load factor in terms of informing the MW planning goals. Reliability modeling considers historical weather patterns, projects climate change and the related impact on generation and demand and uses this information in stochastic analysis to project expected reliability of future electricity generation portfolios. Further real-time wind data collection and ongoing modeling as part of efforts including the IRP process and other studies will continue to improve understanding of the inherent patterns of variability across specific areas with offshore wind technical potential.
5. Potential impacts on coastal resources, fisheries, Native American and Indigenous peoples, and national defense, and strategies for addressing those potential impacts: The recommended MW planning goals do not consider potential impacts to ocean use and environmental considerations. The assessment of potential impacts and the strategies for addressing those impacts that are identified for the strategic plan will inform and may potentially limit the amount of maximum feasible capacity of offshore wind and the MW planning goals that are ultimately identified in the strategic plan .
For developing the strategic plan, the CEC is considering a range of technology scenarios and will examine, among other sources, the Moderate and Advanced Scenarios, which align best with the assumptions used in the state’s approach to offshore wind. The scenarios are broadly classified as:
- Conservative Technology Innovation Scenario: turbine size remaining at a level consistent with the technology solutions available in today’s markets; limited advancements in technology innovation are characteristic of this scenario. Logistical and manufacturing constraints are similar to those today, and they limit turbine size growth.
- Moderate Technology Innovation Scenario: turbine size increasing at a rate commensurate with growth in recent years. Logistical, manufacturing, operating and performance constraints are addressed by technology innovation in turbine, substructure, and port and vessel capabilities to enable the next generation of offshore wind technology. These increases in turbine size are accompanied by continued increases in supply chain efficiencies.
- Advanced Technology Innovation Scenario: turbine size increasing at a rate that is considerably higher than in recent years. Accelerated technology innovation enables large turbine systems and fundamentally changes the manufacturing, installation, operation, and performance of a wind plant.
California Offshore Wind Planning Goal of 2,000 MW – 5,000 MW by 2030
For completing the strategic plan, the CEC recommends establishing a preliminary planning goal range of 2,000 MW–5,000 MW of offshore wind by 2030. This goal could come from a full build-out of Morro Bay Wind Energy Area or a combination of a partial build-out of each of the Morro Bay and Humboldt Wind Energy Areas, which the CEC will further explore when identifying suitable sea space for the 2030 MW planning goals. The lower end of that range reflects an understanding that achieving a 2030 online date will require a significant mobilization of effort and resources and timely infrastructure investments, among other factors.
The ISO estimated transmission infrastructure for 1.6 GW from the Humboldt Wind Energy Area ranged from $2.1 billion to $4.0 billion and estimated that up to 5.3 GW of offshore wind from Central California could be deliverable through the existing transmission system without mitigation and minimal investment.
California Offshore Wind Planning Goal of 25,000 MW by 2045
For completing the strategic plan, the CEC recommends establishing a preliminary planning goal of 25,000 MW of offshore wind by 2045. These goals for 2030 and 2045 will be evaluated as part of the AB 525 strategic plan as more information becomes available from the analysis of suitable sea space and potential impacts on coastal resources, fisheries, Native American and Indigenous people, and national defense, as well as other topics addressed in the strategic plan.
These preliminary MW planning goals are designed to be potentially achievable but aspirational and are established at a level that can contribute significantly to achieving the climate goals. The information available supports the feasibility of at least 20 GW by 2045. However, the offshore wind industry, including floating turbine technology, continues to quickly evolve. The 25 GW target signals that the state sees a need for additional capacity and developing a threshold for creating the momentum necessary to unlock a robust offshore wind industry in California. Higher goals do not commit California to those deployment levels. Offshore wind resources will still need to go through siting and procurement processes, including environmental review, and stakeholder engagement will be critical to identifying new BOEM wind energy areas. However, these higher planning goals prepare the state for potential impacts due to the possible integration of significant offshore wind.
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