California Legislature Passes Landmark Legislation To Bolster Offshore Wind Energy
- Sep 16, 2021 2:49 pm GMT
The California Legislatureon Sept. 9, 2021, approved landmark state legislation - Assembly Bill (AB) 525 - that requires the California Energy Commission(CEC) to prepare a strategic plan for developing offshore wind resources, as well as specific megawatt targets for 2030 and 2045. The legislation is now awaiting the governor's signature.
- The CEC is statutorily mandated to submit the strategic plan to the
California Natural Resources Agencyby June 30, 2023, and prior to that, release a draft strategic plan for public review and comment. In addition to the strategic plan, the CEC is required to establish megawatt planning goals for 2030 and 2045 by June 1, 2022.
- Project developers, energy customers and stakeholders alike should be aware of AB 525 and the following précis on the current status for offshore wind projects in California.
Project developers, energy customers and stakeholders alike should be aware of AB 525 and the following précis on the current status for offshore wind projects in California.
AB 525 requires the CEC - in conjunction with other key state agencies (e.g.,
- identification of sea space
- economic and workforce development, and identification of port space and infrastructure
- transmission planning
- potential impacts on coastal resources, fisheries, Native American and Indigenous peoples, and national defense, and strategies for addressing those potential impacts
The CEC is statutorily mandated to submit the strategic plan to the
In addition to the strategic plan, the CEC is required to establish megawatt planning goals for 2030 and 2045 by
BOEM's Leasing Process
Under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Renewable Energy Program (30 C.F.R. §§ 585.100 et seq.), the
BOEM's leasing process for offshore wind projects generally consists of the following four stages:
- Planning - BOEM will initiate the planning phase for potential offshore wind development by identifying and analyzing suitable areas for wind development and engage in meetings with stakeholders; federal, state and local decision-makers; and tribal entities. BOEM will identify Call Areas, request interest from stakeholders and then designate smaller "Wind Energy Areas" within those Call Areas.
- Leasing - BOEM must publish Proposed Sale Notice (PSN) and Final Sale Notice (FSN) in the
Federal Register, which are subject to 60-day and 30-day public comment periods, respectively. These notices identify, among other things, the area to be leased, lease term, payment requirements, site-specific lease stipulations (if any) and auction details. If multiple developers express interest in a given area, BOEM will proceed with a competitive leasing process, in which developers bid against each other to win the lease.
- Site Assessment - After leases are awarded, the developer-lessee must prepare and submit a Site Assessment Plan (SAP) for BOEM's approval, which contains detailed plans for the installation of meteorological tower and/or buoys. It is also at this stage in which a developer-lessee will conduct technical site-specific surveys (e.g., marine fish and mammal life, archeological resources). BOEM may approve, conditionally approve or deny the SAP.
- Construction and Operations - The developer-lessee must prepare and submit for BOEM's approval a Construction and Operations Plan (COP). COPs detail the facilities that the developer-lessee proposes to construct, along with all proposed construction and operation activities for the project. A COP should also contain a conceptual decommissioning plan for all planned facilities.
Current Schedule for California
California's offshore wind potential is currently focused on two "Call Areas": 1) the Humboldt Call Area (
As for the Morro
NEPA and California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA)
BOEM's designation of a WEA marks the beginning of the environmental review process under NEPA. Once a WEA is designated, BOEM generally will prepare and release for public comment an Environmental Assessment (EA) which will analyze the environmental effects of site assessment activities (not development activities).
BOEM's approval of a developer-lessee's COP is also subject to NEPA. Typically, BOEM will issue a Notice of Intent (NOI) to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for any wind energy facility and infrastructure proposed. The EIS will consider the environmental effects of BOEM's approval of the COP, as well as project alternatives and mitigation measures to avoid or reduce the severity of significant environmental effects. The EIS will likely provide environmental clearance for not only BOEM's approval, but also other approvals required from other federal cooperating agencies (e.g.,
Although offshore wind projects are slated to be located in federal waters that does not insulate such projects from state environmental review under CEQA. Offshore wind projects will likely require state discretionary approvals for not only on-land activities, but also offshore activities with the potential to impact coastal resources within the state's jurisdiction. State-level approvals may include the issuance of a tidelands lease, a coastal development permit (CDP), and/or Consistency Determination(s) or Certification(s) under the Coastal Zone Management Act.
The logical proposal would be for federal and state agencies to coordinate their NEPA and CEQA obligations in a joint environmental review document (i.e., an EIR-EIS). While the environmental review coordination process remains to be seen, the CEC's strategic plan required under AB 525 must include recommendations on NEPA and CEQA coordination.
Conclusion and Takeaways
Although California's offshore wind planning processes has languished in comparison to
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.
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