EnBW expects a long-awaited federal offshore wind lease auction in California to take place next year once talks with the US Department of Defense (DOD) have been concluded, the German utility’s North American chief executive Bill White told Recharge.
“In the US, the Federal Government controls the land lease process, and they are in the midst of a discussion with the Department of Defense to ensure that areas can be de-conflicted before the leasing process takes place.
“We are right now anticipating a lease auction probably somewhere next year – which we, of course, intend to win.”
EnBW two years ago formed a joint venture with US start-up Trident Winds called Castle Wind to build an up-to-1GW floating wind farm at Morro Bay, one of three deep-water areas off the Pacific Ocean coast of California earmarked for a lease auction by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).
BOEM, part of the US Department of the Interior, oversees commercial wind energy development on the outer continental shelf beyond state territorial limits, and previously had expected to hold the California lease auction this year.
Morro Bay is located half-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco in central California, where the DOD – which is also a major employer in the state - is seen reticent about offshore wind development for national security reasons, preferring it to take place in far-northern regions of the large state.
That prospect holds little appeal for project developers given the minimal transmission infrastructure there and lack of meaningful electric load.
While the talks with the DOD are hard to influence by the offshore wind industry, White stressed that EnBW has developed “an enormous amount of support with fishermen and the local community” at Morro Bay.
“While we are still waiting on the federal process for leasing the site, we have advanced quite a bit on three relevant documents, or agreements,” said Holger Grubel, EnBW’s head of portfolio development, offshore wind generation.
Next to an agreement with local fishermen, the utility also has signed deals with Morro Bay city council to encourage the local economy, as well as a preliminary memorandum of understanding (MoU) for an offtake agreement with local community choice aggregators in the area (CCAs), basically local communities that intend to sell electricity to residents.
White also said, his company is “carefully examining the technology options that are out there.”
The Castle Wind joint venture previously said it considers about 100 turbines at Morro Bay, but so far hasn’t said what platform or turbine type it would use at the site some 30 miles from the coast. Trident Wind founder Alla Weinstein also started floating wind technology company Principle Power, which recently installed a 25MW floating wind pilot array off Portugal.
Richard A. Kessler in Forth Worth contributed to this article
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