California Urged to Accelerate Offshore Wind Development to Tackle Climate Crisis and Boost Economy

California is being urged to seize the opportunity presented by offshore wind energy as the state faces mounting pressure to combat climate change and strengthen its economy.

Last year, California set a groundbreaking offshore wind goal of 25 gigawatts by 2045, aiming to power 25 million homes. However, experts argue that the state should aim higher and take the lead in the United States to achieve a cleaner and more sustainable future.

New research conducted by Energy Innovation, GridLab, and UC Berkeley reveals that with smart state and federal policies, California could install over 100 gigawatts of offshore wind farms along its West Coast by 2050.

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This ambitious move could significantly contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and bolstering the state’s electric grid. Moreover, electricity costs from offshore wind turbines are expected to become comparable to onshore wind and solar farms, thanks to tax incentives and falling technology prices.

The research also points out that offshore wind could create a substantial number of jobs. Embracing offshore wind energy along the West Coast could generate an estimated 60,000 additional jobs by 2050 compared to a clean-energy strategy without offshore wind.

Despite the vast potential for offshore wind energy in California, the U.S. has been slow to adopt the technology, lagging behind countries like China, which already boasts 25 gigawatts of installed capacity and is projected to reach over 180 gigawatts by 2035. Northern European countries are also targeting an impressive cumulative capacity of 300 gigawatts by 2050.

To make the most of offshore wind’s economic promise, experts advocate raising the U.S. ambition to 400-500 gigawatts by 2050, with California at the forefront of West Coast efforts. By partnering with Oregon and Washington, California could develop a thriving offshore wind industry, revitalizing port communities and positioning itself as a global hub for offshore wind technology.

Addressing concerns about the visual impact of offshore wind farms, recent polling of coastal residents shows strong overall support for these projects.

Most respondents indicated that visible wind turbines would not deter them from visiting the beach and may even make them more likely to do so. Developers are also mindful of minimizing impacts on wildlife and marine ecosystems, working closely with environmental agencies and fisheries to promote co-existence.

While the potential benefits are vast, there is a sense of urgency in moving forward. The typical timeline for planning and developing an offshore wind farm can take up to 14 years, and the infrastructure needed to construct the turbines could require another decade. To meet California’s climate goals and seize economic opportunities, experts stress the need for swift policy action.

Governor Gavin Newsom, the state legislature, and the California Energy Commission are called upon to set a higher offshore wind target for 2050, sending a strong signal to the market and driving further investment. Coordination with neighboring states, Oregon and Washington, is also essential to plan new power line projects that will support offshore wind expansion.

As California has long been a pioneer in clean energy and climate solutions, embracing offshore wind could further solidify its position as a global leader. By acting decisively now, the state can ensure a cleaner, more sustainable future while reaping substantial economic benefits for years to come.

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