California Outlines Options for Permitting Offshore Wind Projects

The Californian Energy Commission (CEC) has adopted a report describing various options for a coordinated, comprehensive, and efficient permitting and environmental review process of offshore wind projects off the Californian coast.

California Energy Commission

The report, titled Assembly Bill 525 Offshore Wind Energy Permitting Roadmap, was developed in response to Assembly Bill 525 which was signed into law on 23 September 2021.

The law also resulted in the CEC establishing a goal to deploy up to 5 GW by 2030 and 25 GW of offshore wind by 2045 which could be enough electricity to power 3.75 million homes initially, with a goal of powering 25 million homes by midcentury.

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The report includes information on state permitting agencies and processes for a complete picture of the landscape beyond the federal processes, according to a press release by CEC.

It describes each agency’s responsibilities for different aspects of offshore wind development, including the application and review process for projects within their jurisdictions.

The report also outlines the existing review timelines that a project currently could follow, estimating it could take between six and ten years for a project developer to obtain all the needed federal approvals, four to six years to obtain the state approvals, and two to three years to obtain local approvals before construction could begin.

According to the press release, CEC considered a few approaches and concluded that a coordinated approach would leverage existing expertise and staff resources housed in each agency while allowing for permitting process improvements and streamlining, which can result in faster and more predictable project permitting.

However, CEC said that it is important to evaluate and vet additional options and suggestions fully before deciding the best permitting pathway.

The report is one of three interim products contributing to the development of the state’s Offshore Wind Strategic Plan that will be submitted to the Legislature this year.

In December 2022, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management held the first California sale for offshore wind leases. The auction resulted in the awards of five lease holders off California’s North and Central Coasts.

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A few months ago, the state signed onto a White House-led federal-state partnership designed to fast-track efforts to bring cleaner and cheaper energy to Americans, create good-paying jobs, and build an American supply chain for offshore wind.

That same month, the CEC and the Danish Energy Agency (DEA) signed a new agreement to promote sharing of knowledge, experiences, data, and best practices for offshore wind energy. The cooperation also covers Power-to-X.

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