If fossil energy stakeholders in the US seem a little desperate these days, that’s not an accident. Federal policymakers are getting set to introduce more than 4.5 new gigawatts of floating offshore wind turbines to California. Meanwhile, interest in electric vehicles is surging, NASA is bearing its satellite power down on methane super-emitters, local jurisdictions are banning gas hookups from new buildings, and just about everyone is chasing the green hydrogen unicorn.
4.5 Gigawatts Of Floating Offshore Wind For California — Finally!
For those of you new to the topic, floating wind turbines literally float on platforms tethered to the seabed with cables. If that sounds like a new and tricky feat of engineering, it is. Currently, most offshore turbines are built in a conventional way. They perch on monopiles that are drilled into the seabed.
Tricky or not, new floating wind technology provides more opportunities to locate wind farms in deep water, where monopile construction is impractical. The technology also enables nations to acquire more offshore wind resources while minimizing or eliminating impacts on fishing, tourism and other near-shore marine industries.
The US should be leading the global floating turbine race, considering that the Department of Energy was among the early funders of new floating turbine technology during the Obama administration.
Still, other nations are well on their way to establishing floating offshore wind farms, while the US is just getting started. The US is starting with a bang, though. The US Department of the Interior has been deploying a streamlined process for leasing federal offshore wind areas along the Atlantic coast. The agency currently has 27 commercial wind leases under its umbrella, and California will reap the benefit of that experience.
The offshore lease program comes under the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Last October, BOEM announced the designation of five areas suitable for floating offshore wind turbines on the California Outer Continental Shelf. Combined, the Pacific lease areas cover more than 373,000 acres with the potential to deliver a capacity of more than 4.5 gigawatts.
For reference, BOEM estimates that 4.5 gigawatts will cover the electricity demand of 1.5 million typical homes.
BOEM will hold the lease auction Tuesday, December 6. Everyone can follow the round-by-round action at boem.gov/california, beginning at 7:00 a.m. PST / 10:00 a.m. EST.
The Global Floating Offshore Wind Race Heats Up
The Pacific wind auction provides the US with a good chance to catch up with other nations, if they act fast.
The number of floating offshore wind farms in the world is still relatively small, if only those in operation are counted. However, according to figures compiled by the US Department of Energy earlier this year, more than 60 gigawatts in floating offshore wind capacity are in the pipeline.
They are getting bigger, too. Last month, CleanTechnica noted that Norway’s new 88-megawatt Tampen wind farm claimed the title of biggest operational floating wind farm in the world, but it will be easily eclipsed by a 999-megawatt project proposed for Spain.
In other supersized floating offshore wind farm news, last week the testing and certification firm Bureau Veritas announced that it has been tapped to lead the certification for Korea’s 500-megawatt Gray Whale 3 project. The partners, consisting of Corio Generation and TotalEnergies, expect the wind farm to be operational by the end of 2026 (Corio is under the umbrella of Maquerie’s Green Investment Group).
The floating turbine leader Principle Power also has another project in the works for Korea, clocking in at 1,000 megawatts.
Italy is another floating turbine hotspot. Plans are in the works for two projects with a combined total of 2 gigawatts, the Elymo in the Strait of Sicily and the Apeneste in the southern Adriatic Sea.
Fossil Energy On The Ropes
Fossil energy will continue to feature in the global economy for years to come, but its role as a leading powerhouse is coming to an end and the flopsweat is beginning to show.
In an article published on December 4, New York Times reporter David Gelles profiled the fossil energy lobbying organization Texas Public Policy Foundation. While taking note of the group’s influence, Gelles also noted that a member of its executive team tweeted a Thanksgiving Day message that read, “Today, I’m thankful to live a high-carbon lifestyle and wish the rest of the world could too. Energy poverty = poverty. #decarbonization is dangerous and deadly.”
As for tomorrow, that high-carbon lifestyle is already sinking out of sight. The US coal industry is already toast, partly on account of the coal-to-gas transition during the early 2000s. Gas producers are now facing competition from low-cost wind and solar, and new risks are emerging. Last October, for example, NASA announced that it can spot methane activity on the surface of the Earth through its Mineral Dust Source Investigation program, leading to the identification of responsible parties for human-caused emissions.
Meanwhile, the movement to ban natural gas hookups for new buildings could turn from a trickle to a flood, as improvements in electric heat pump technology have made it possible to expand the use of non-polluting HVAC systems. A handful of local jurisdictions have already enacted bans, and policy makers in New York and elsewhere are preparing to propose statewide bans.
Electric Vehicles Will Rule The World
As for petroleum, the threats are multiplying. One new threat is the green hydrogen industry, which practically did not exist just a couple of years ago. Green hydrogen stakeholders are already beginning to hitch a ride on the offshore wind industry. In northern Europe, for example, Denmark is hatching a plan to deploy green hydrogen as a transportation medium for its excess offshore wind assets, including floating turbines.
Hydrogen fuel cell cars have yet to gain a foothold among the US car buying public, but an interesting symbiosis with battery-electric vehicles is beginning to emerge, as a sustainable power source for EV charging stations.
Vehicle electrification is another threat that has laid relatively low until recent years. Sales of all-electric cars in the US have surged again this year. Tesla, of course, has a long headstart, but EVs from Ford, GM, Hyundai, and Kia have made a respectable showing. Volkswagen, Nissan, Audi, Porsche, Mercedes, Volvo, and BMW are also among those aiming to leverage their brand reputation to attract gasmobile drivers over to the electric side.
Speaking of brand reputation, raise your hand if you have a Tesla-owning friend who adores their car but recently declared they will never buy another Tesla (raises hand). If you have any thoughts about that, drop us a note in the comment thread.
Follow me on Twitter @TinaMCasey (for now).
Find me on LinkedIn: @TinaMCasey or Mastodon: @Casey or Post: @tinamcasey
Image (cropped): Floating offshore wind turbines courtesy of National Renewable Energy Laboratory, by Besiki Kazaishvili (“The FLoating Offshore Wind ReadINess (FLOWIN) Prize, recently announced as part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Floating Offshore Wind Shot, is designed to accelerate the market readiness of U.S. floating offshore wind energy technologies.”
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Source: Clean Technica