California Community Choice Aggregator Sees Promise in Floating Offshore Wind

California community choice aggregator (CCA) Monterey Bay
Community Power has signed a memorandum of understanding to explore
buying the power from a 1,000-megawatt floating offshore wind
farm.

It’s an early, if no-stakes, claim to what could be a massive
offshore wind opportunity set to open via federal offshore lease
auction next year, assuming floating wind turbine technology can
meet the tests of wind, wave and California’s energy markets.
 

This
week’s MOU
, which is not a binding contract, calls for a
long-term power purchase agreement between Monterey Bay Community
Power and Castle Wind LLC, a joint venture of EnBW North America
and Trident Winds Inc. The power is to be delvered by 2025 from
the Castle Wind
Offshore
 project, which would see around 100 wind turbines
held upright by floating substructures anchored to the ocean floor
30 miles off California’s Central Coast. 

It’s the most public step yet by one of the more than a dozen
developers that are reportedly eyeing California’s offshore wind
potential, including
Avangrid Renewables
, EDF, EDP, E.ON and Equinor. The federal
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is planning to hold an auction in
2020 for leases off California’s coastline.

Castle Wind’s interest in the project dates back to 2015, when
it first submitted a lease request for the federally regulated
stretch of ocean floor west of Morro Bay, Calif. As we reported
last week, EnBW EnBW,
has major stakes
 in U.S. offshore wind, despite being left on
the sidelines in December’s BOEM auction. 

Morro Bay hosts a now-closed power plant, with the associated
high-voltage transmission infrastructure needed to carry the
project’s power to shore. And it’s also near the Diablo Canyon
nuclear plant, California’s last, which is set
to close by 2025
 and remove about 2.2 gigawatts of baseload
power from the region’s grid.

Of course, floating wind turbines have yet to prove themselves
at gigawatt scale. But the first commercial-scale floating wind
farm, Statoil’s 30-megawatt Hywind Scotland, has set a strong
track record, hitting a remarkable 65
percent capacity factor
 in its first winter of operations, and
landing a first-of-a-kind, 20-year
PPA
 with Danske Commodities in June. 

In the long run, floating turbines could drastically expand the
ocean territory open to wind power development, while slowly
reducing costs to match those of fixed offshore wind by the
mid-2020s, according to the Department of Energy. In February,

DOE’s ARPA-E agency
directed $28 million toward new floating
wind technologies, noting that about 60 percent of the country’s
offshore potential lies in waters more than 200 feet deep. 

Offshore wind would face stiff price competition in California
from its growing share of solar power, as well as remotely
generated onshore wind
 from other states. But the high
capacity factor of turbines spinning far out into the ocean could
also help stabilize the state’s electricity supply-demand balance
as it seeks to integrate an increasing share of intermittent
renewable energy into its grid. 

Monterey Bay Community Power is one of a
growing number of CCAs
taking over the power procurement
responsibility from investor-owned utilities in cities and counties
across California, and expanding their share of responsibility for
the state’s future renewable energy goals. 


CCAs are increasing
 their current 2 gigawatts of renewables
under contract by another gigawatt this year, and they are set to
hit 10 gigawatts by 2030 — about the amount that California’s
integrated resource plan projects they’ll need to match their
projected share of the state’s electric customer base.

MBCE isn’t the only CCA to express a non-binding interest in
offshore floating wind. In April 2018, the Redwood Coast Energy
Authority announced it
had selected a consortium, including floating wind platform
developer Principle Power, to explore a 100-megawatt to
150-megawatt project off the Humboldt County coast. 

Source: FS – GreenTech Media
California Community Choice Aggregator Sees Promise in Floating Offshore Wind