“California needs offshore plan,” says Arnie

“It is no different than when I was in bodybuilding. I could say at the age of 15: ‘I want to be bodybuilding champion of the world.’ But I had to have a plan.”


September 2, 2021

Former California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last month launched a report by his USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State & Global Policy, about the potential for building an offshore wind industry in California state waters. The report, ‘California’s Offshore Electricity Opportunity’, said offshore wind could save the US state $1bn in energy cost savings by 2040, while improving electricity reliability and creating jobs.

Speaking in the introductory address at the report’s launch webinar, he welcomed the Biden administration’s target of 30GW of installed offshore wind capacity in US waters by 2030 and 110GW in 2050.

But he said that the government, both at state and federal level, needs a plan – much like the 15-year-old Schwarzenegger did: “I had to have a plan of how much weight I had to lift every day, how many reps I had to do, how many sets, what kind of exercise to do, what kind of diet… That’s why at the age of 20, I became the youngest world champion in bodybuilding ever.”

He said a lack of plans is stopping countries hitting their renewables goals.

“I have seen too many countries set ambitious environment goals, but they failed to deliver. Seventy percent of the countries worldwide have not really accomplished the goals they set out in 2015 at COP21. It’s a sad situation.”

In this article, we share a few key findings from that report, as well as views of those at its launch. California has so far trailed east coast states on the rollout of offshore wind because east coast states like New York can use fixed-bottom projects – which are widely used globally – while projects off the west coast require floating foundations that are yet to reach commercial maturity.

National opportunity

The report said offshore wind farms could make a vital contribution to help California meet its goal of generating all electricity from carbon-free sources by 2045. It said that $1bn energy cost savings by 2040 would follow if 10GW of offshore wind was built in California waters.

Schwarzenegger added offshore wind could help stop wildfires as offshore grid lines “will not be exposed like the transmission lines of today”.

David Hochschild, chair of the California Energy Commission, told the webinar he was positive. He said almost 80% of US electricity demand is in US coastal states or those by the Great Lakes, which means this is a national opportunity.

He said offshore wind in California is growing under the Biden administration, which agreed in May to the development of two areas off California – Morro Bay and Humboldt – for a total 4.6GW of offshore wind capacity.

“We have got a long way to go, but once we turn our focus to this, I believe we can scale and get a very sizeable deployment of this technology off the west coast,” said Hochschild.

There will be challenges. The report highlights obstacles such as the need for the further commercialisation of floating foundations; the need to invest in the grid; and a range of concerns from the military, the fishing community, and conservationists.

We looked at some of these risks in ‘How to de-risk floating offshore wind projects’, a report we published last month with UL.

But the Schwarzenegger Institute report concluded that offshore wind could be essential to California’s energy future.

Man with a plan

Energy experts in California are now closely watching an offshore wind bill driven by California assembly member David Chiu.

Assembly Bill 525, which was announced in February, would set a goal of 3GW of offshore wind in Californian waters by 2030 and 10GW in 2040. He said at the webinar that he hoped the bill would be discussed in the state senate by early September, and then approved quickly.

Chiu argued there is currently a 29GW pipeline of offshore wind projects in the US and, if California can step up, it can play a leading role in floating wind globally: “We can become a global leader in this new floating offshore wind industry as long as we take advantage of this moment,” he said.

And as Arnie would respond if we was still governor: I’ll be backing it.

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