Floating Offshore Wind Farm Proposed for Central Coast California

offshore wind farm
Teun van den Dries / Shutterstock

One of the world’s leading offshore wind farm operators is making its entry in the North American wind market with a proposal to develop one of the the U.S. West Coast’s first offshore wind projects off the central coast of California.

German renewable energy company EnBW says it has formed a joint venture with Seattle-based ‘floating’ offshore wind specialist Trident Winds to develop an the first large-scale floating offshore wind project off in Central California.

Floating wind turbines, as opposed to turbines fixed to the seabed, are a relatively new technology which will allow wind farms to open in new areas with greater water depth and more favorable wind conditions for energy production.

EnBW recently establish its first regional subsidiary in the United States, EnBW North America, as it seeks to expand its footprint in new international markets. Now, the company is eyeing California, in particular the central coast, as its main focus.

The joint venture seeks to develop a 650 to 1,000 megawatt offshore wind project off the coast of Morro Bay, California, located about 100 miles up the coast from Santa Barbara. The so-called “Morro Bay” project would deploy floating turbines with a grid connection in Morro Bay.

The initial focus of the joint venture is to obtain the site lease from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and on securing the grid connection which became available following the shutdown of the Morro Bay power plant.

EnBW says California is of particular interest because of its strong economy, its continuously growing energy demand, and ambitious renewable energy and climate goals.

“EnBW will have a direct presence in this promising market to capture opportunities and to further build up EnBW’s offshore project portfolio.“, says Dirk Güsewell, Head of Generation Portfolio Development at EnBW.

The company added that it sees floating offshore wind technology as being representative of the future of offshore wind.

“Trident Winds welcomes the project development and the operational expertise of EnBW to bring the proposed Morro Bay project to a reality. Successful projects require local knowledge, close interaction with stakeholders, detailed knowledge of permitting requirements, and extensive experience in offshore wind project design, construction and operation. The newly created joint venture brings all these elements together,” says Alla Weinstein, Founder and CEO of Trident Winds Inc.

Offshore wind energy in the United States is finally showing signs of life after years of delays. In late 2016, the United States’ first offshore wind farm, Deepwater Wind, started operations off the coast of Rhode Island.

In May, Massachusetts and Rhode Island selected developers to install 1,200 megawatts of wind turbines in the Atlantic Ocean in what is seen as a “big step” for offshore wind in the U.S.

Massachusetts, New York, Maryland and New Jersey have all established specific targets for offshore wind development. Massachusetts alone wants to install 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind by 2027, while New York, New Jersey and Maryland are targeting a combined 8 gigawatts by 2030.