In the past couple of years, the federal administration and California have seldom agreed on policies. Dino Grandoni writes in the Washington Post that offshore wind power is one area of agreement.
California and the Trump administration rarely agree on energy policy. Here’s an exception.
Under President Trump, the federal government and the nation’s most populous state have clashed on a number of fronts when it comes to energy and environmental policy.
But there’s at least one thing California and the Trump administration can agree on. Both want to erect wind turbines off of the state’s coast.
The Department of the Interior took its first steps last week toward developing offshore wind energy off the West Coast. “We’re opening the Pacific,” Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Wednesday at a wind energy conference in Washington.
“Regardless of what you read in the news, I get along with Jerry Brown,” Zinke added, referring to the outgoing Democratic governor of California who has emerged as one of the fiercest critics of the Trump administration’s energy policies. “Some things are not Republican or Democrat. A lot of things are red, white and blue.”
While the Trump administration rolls back rules meant to restrain atmosphere-warming emissions, Brown signed a bill last month committing the state to produce 100 percent of its electricity from carbon-free energy sources by 2045.
Now to meet that goal, Brown’s administration is coordinating with the Interior Department to prepare three sections of the outer continental shelf off northern and central California for wind energy development.
On Friday, Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management issued an official call to companies to gauge interest in leasing about 688,000 acres of the Pacific for offshore wind.
Unlike its onshore cousin, the offshore wind industry has gotten off to a slow start in the United States. The only utility-scale offshore wind project to come online to date is a small five-turbine, 30-megawatt wind farm off of Block Island in the state of Rhode Island. That project was completed in 2016.
But the federal government has also awarded active commercial wind leases across the Eastern Seaboard, off the coasts of Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia and North Carolina.
While most of those lease sales happened under President Obama, the Trump administration has largely picked up from where the previous administration left off. Shortly after the new president took office last year, the Trump administration auctioned off leases for 112,000 acres off the coast of North Carolina. And this December, it will hold bidding for leases for an additional 390,000 acres off of Massachusetts.
In the case of California, geography rather than politics may be the biggest challenge for future offshore wind projects. Unlike those on the East Coast, much of the waters of the California coast are too deep for existing wind turbines, which are grounded to the sea floor. That means developers will need to build turbines that float.