ORIGINAL REPORTING: Can floating offshore wind get California to zero emissions?
California wants a carbon-free economy by 2045: Can floating offshore wind help it get there? New technology could bring ocean wind when there is no sun to recharge depleted batteries.
Herman K. Trabish, Sept. 25, 2019 (Utility Dive)
Editor’s note: The value of offshore wind to California has grown but the policy effort to build it has not accelerated.
Emerging floating offshore wind technologies could save California electricity customers billions in the next two decades but the mechanics of floating wind remain unproven at scale and developers face multiple permitting and financing hurdles. Nevertheless, California could be where floating offshore wind (OSW) finally breaks into the U.S. market, developers and offshore wind researchers told Utility Dive.
An August study by Energy + Environment Economics (E3) found California ratepayer savings could reach $2 billion due to OSW's "proximity to in-state electricity demand" and could produce up to 9 GW of emissions-free energy by 2040 at substantial customer savings.
All U.S. OSW to date has been developed and contracted off the Atlantic coast, where coastal shallow waters make fixed bottom development cost-effective. California's deep near-shore waters make floating technology the only practical ocean wind choice, though no development has taken place yet.
Two California load serving entities (LSEs) have signed non-binding offtaker agreements with floating OSW developers. But finding committed offtakers may be difficult until proof of reliability comes from unfinished international projects in Europe and Asia. Finding offtakers may also be a challenge in California, as the customer choice movement stalls established LSEs' procurements and doubts about the creditworthiness of new LSEs persists. Some say solar+storage is the smarter choice.
The U.S. OSW industry has one operational 30 MW fixed foundation project off the coast of Rhode Island, but 19 fixed foundation projects are in development and more are being planned, adding up to according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). States had almost 20 GW of state OSW-specific commitments in early 2019. Fixed foundation technology has allowed almost 22.6 GW of global capacity across 176 projects to operate. But on the Pacific coast, the shelf drops off near shore, making the sea bottom too deep for fixed foundations.
Scotland's 30 MW Equinor project, in its second year of operation, is the most substantial validation of floating OSW to date. But 14 floating OSW projects in nine countries, representing 200 MW of capacity, are now moving ahead and will likely determine the near-term fate of the technology, NREL Research Scientist and report lead author Walt Musial said during an Aug. 22 webinar… click here for more