California ISO Unveils USD 6.1 Billion Transmission Plan, Spotlights Offshore Wind

The California Independent System Operator (ISO) has unveiled its draft 2023-2024 Transmission Plan, which includes 26 proposed projects worth USD 6.1 billion (approximately EUR 5.6 billion), with a majority of the investment related to offshore wind.

According to the California ISO, the plan is based on the state projections that California needs to add more than 85 GW of new clean renewable energy by 2035 to meet greenhouse gas reduction goals and load growth, including the potential for increased electrification occurring in other sectors of the economy, primarily in transportation and the building industry.

Stakeholder comments on the draft plan are due by 23 April, with a final version scheduled for consideration by the ISO Board of Governors at its May meeting. 

The draft plan recommends 19 “reliability-driven” projects that are expected to cost USD 1.54 billion. Most of the costs identified in the draft plan, another USD 4.59 billion, are from three major transmission lines that would deliver energy produced by floating wind turbines off the Coast of Humboldt County.

“These projects off California’s North Coast area represent the first wave of development for offshore wind to meet the state’s portfolio needs while also being flexible enough to expand in the future to meet any increased requirements,” said Neil Millar, the ISO’s vice president for Infrastructure and Operations Planning.

Several smaller connector lines recommended in the draft plan would move much of that clean energy into the Bay Area, according to the ISO.

Planning done by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) expects the first offshore wind farms to start generating renewable energy around 2034.

The ISO’s draft plan seeks to grant access to over 38 GW of new solar power, spanning Nevada and Arizona, alongside 21 GW of geothermal development, primarily in the Imperial Valley and southern Nevada, and access for battery storage projects co-located across the state with renewable generation projects.

In addition, the draft plan would allow over 3 GW of in-state wind generation, the import of over 5.6 GW of out-of-state wind generation, as well as over 4.7 GW of offshore wind with 3.1 GW in the Central Coast (Morro Bay call area) and 1.6 GW in the North Coast area (Humboldt call area).

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In Humboldt Bay, two floating wind sites are currently under development, following the lease sale in 2022, the first in the US to allocate offshore areas for floating wind projects. RWE secured the lease area OCS-P 0561 and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP), through its project company California North Floating, won development rights for the lease area OCS-P 0562.

When it comes to the Morro Bay lease area, Ocean Winds and Invenergy secured the lease areas OCS-P 0564 and OCS-P 0565, respectively, as well as Equinor for the OCS-P 0563 area.

California has set a goal of 25 GW of installed offshore wind capacity by 2045.

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