Labor, environmental justice, environmental, and business groups celebrate announcement
Washington, D.C. – In a highly-anticipated step toward the development of clean offshore wind energy in California coastal waters, the Biden/Harris administration recently announced that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will hold the first-ever offshore wind energy lease sale in U.S. Pacific waters on Dec. 6th, 2022.
The sale notice includes three lease areas off of the central coast of California near Morro Bay and two lease areas off of the Northern California coast near Humboldt Bay – an area with the potential to produce enough clean energy to power 1.5 million homes.
“This is a historic moment in California’s progress towards clean offshore wind energy development, and it comes thanks to the incredible partnership between the Biden administration and the state of California in advancing clean energy investment. As the consequences of climate change bear down on our communities, clean offshore wind investment cannot come to California waters soon enough. Today, we are one step closer,” said Laura Deehan, state director at Environment California.
California Energy Commission
The announcement comes on the heels of a California Energy Commission vote earlier this year to adopt the nation’s most ambitious offshore wind targets. If California succeeds in its plans to develop 2 GW to 5 GW of offshore wind development by 2030 and 25 GW of offshore wind by 2045, roughly 25% of the state’s total electricity needs would be met with clean offshore wind energy by midcentury. The Biden administration’s lease sale announcement today is the first step towards achieving this ambitious vision.
Jobs & Economic Boost?
In addition to supporting a cleaner and more resilient electricity grid, the lease sale announcement also has the potential to revitalize port communities by creating thousands of well-paying union jobs. As a first step to offshore wind development, revitalization of the Port of Humboldt Bay is on the horizon – a project could generate as many as 830 local jobs and more than $130 million in industry output over five years. A report last year from the USC Schwarzenegger Institute found that developing 10 GW of offshore wind could create 65,000 jobs during the construction phase and 4,500 long-term operation and maintenance jobs.
“Offshore wind energy in California means thousands of jobs, and with the right protections, we can ensure they are high-quality, family-sustaining union jobs. California has a skilled-workforce ready to go above and beyond in advancing our state’s ambitious vision for offshore wind development – all while uplifting and revitalizing communities that currently lack these opportunities,” said Jeff Hunerlach, district representative at Operating Engineers Humboldt County.
Cutting Fossil Fuels
Development of 4.5 GW of clean offshore wind energy through the lease sale announced will also support the state in cutting dangerous air pollution from fossil fuels. 84% of gas peaker plants are located in areas considered to be in the most disadvantaged half of California communities and half of these peaker plants were located in the most disadvantaged 30%.Offshore wind energy can deliver a surge of clean electricity to the grid in the evening hours when polluting fossil fuel power plants are most often switched on to meet the state’s electricity demand.
“This is a first step towards community benefits that offshore wind can bring to California. In many communities of color and low-income communities across California, air quality is so polluted it can be deadly and investment in clean energy resources is critical to cutting pollution. While the bidding process also includes important stipulations for quality jobs and benefits to local communities, the work towards equity continues,” said Eddie Ahn, executive director at Brightline Defense.
Polling from Public Policy Institute of California earlier this year finds that 85% of likely voters are in favor of wind power and wave energy projects off California’s coast. Federal support for offshore wind development is on the horizon through the Inflation Reduction Act.