How to reduce California’s carbon emissions? The answer is blowing in the wind

Floating offshore wind turbines have been in development since the mid-2000s. This turbine was installed in 2009 in Norway.
Floating offshore wind turbines have been in development since the mid-2000s. This turbine was installed in 2009 in Norway.

Now – not years from now – California must advance the next utility-scale, clean energy technology to reduce carbon emissions by developing floating offshore wind in the deep ocean off the California coast.

Natural gas for heating is fading, being replaced by new non-carbon emissions power. Under the state’s current plans, fossil fuels are also expected to disappear from California’s transportation sector. The Golden State will need more clean, carbon-free electricity to meet its admirable goals: 50 percent renewable energy by 2025, 60 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2045.

Such goals, as outlined in Senate Bill 100, are remarkable but challenging. A road map to their implementation must be delivered to state legislators on or before Jan. 1, 2021.

Will floating offshore wind be given a prominent position on the map to reach the goals? If not, we don’t think California can win the race to a much cleaner environment and stronger economy under its timeline.


Floating offshore wind electricity generation is underway in several countries, but not in the U.S. California would be the first state to develop floating turbines, placing it in a unique position to equal, if not surpass, the East Coast.

Philip Rink Jr.
Given the size of its economy and its commitment to 100 percent clean energy by 2045, California could become not only the first state to adopt floating offshore wind power, but also the global leader – but only if Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration commits to replacing current base-load electrical generation with offshore wind and embraces the technology like it has with solar.

California can generate in excess of 18 gigawatts of power, according to the National Renewable Energy Lab. Independently, a Business Network for Offshore Wind study indicates that by 2050, the state can expect to integrate roughly 20 gigawatts of offshore wind power, which would amount to 20 percent of the state’s electricity mix.

Offshore wind can replace natural gas plants and the retiring Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, helping to achieve the goals in SB 100. Offshore wind is the perfect complement for solar energy, helping to level out the infamous “duck curve” and providing continuous reliable energy throughout the day and night.

Wind resources off California’s northern coast are very favorable for significant electricity generation, but the electricity loads are in the central and southern parts of the state. As the state looks more widely at grid reliability, perhaps the solution lies in a subsea transmission cable running north to south, strengthening weak parts of the grid. Such a solution could have immense advantages for the coming era of climate extremes.

Work has been done by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, California Energy Commission and private developers to set California on a path to achieve a floating offshore wind project in the water as soon as 2025. BOEM recently received 14 expressions of interest from developers in response to the ‘Commercial Leasing for Wind Power Development on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Offshore California - Call for Information and Nominations’ published in the Federal Register.

Newsom’s administration should embrace this momentum by helping the offshore wind industry gain acceptance by other ocean users, such as fisheries, the U.S. Navy, commercial shipping and environmental groups. Offshore wind coexists with many of these ocean users in Europe, and offshore wind projects are proven to be good ocean neighbors.

Augie Beltran is the director of public and government affairs for the Northern California Carpenters Regional Council. Liz Burdock is president and CEO of the Business Network for Offshore Wind.