West Coast Offshore Wind Projects in the Works

Blades are installed on a wind turbine at Hywind Tampen, an offshore wind farm developed by Equinor. Photo: Jan Arne Wold/Woldcam/Equinor.

Although offshore wind projects are common along the East Coast, the West Coast has yet to see any turbines dot the horizon.

However, that’s expected to change in the coming years, as the waters have opened up in California (and are on their way in Oregon and Washington). Plans for floating systems are in the works, as well as land-side supporting facilities.

In 2021, several federal departments announced a shared goal to deploy 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind energy in the U.S. by 2030. In 2022, President Biden followed that up with an additional objective: 15 GW of floating offshore wind energy by 2035.

The first-ever offshore wind lease sale in the Pacific Ocean occurred in December 2022. It was also the first-ever U.S. sale to support potential commercial-scale floating offshore wind energy development.

“The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management continues to work closely with coastal states, (Native American) tribes, ocean users, local communities and all interested parties on opportunities for floating offshore wind energy consideration,” Doug Boren, BOEM’s Pacific regional director told Pacific Maritime. “Unlocking the immense offshore wind energy potential off our nation’s West Coast will help combat the effects of climate change while creating good-paying union jobs.”

In early 2023, the Department of Energy launched the West Coast Offshore Wind Transmission Study, a 20-month analysis to investigate how to expand transmission options to support offshore wind development on the West Coast.

The study is expected to use its findings to develop practical plans through 2050 to address transmission constraints that currently limit offshore wind development along the West Coast. It is also expected to evaluate multiple pathways to reaching offshore wind goals while supporting grid reliability, resilience and ocean co-use.

Rendering of the Port of Long Beach’s proposed Pier Wind floating offshore wind staging and integration facility. Images: Port of Long Beach.


The biggest movement has been on California’s northern and central coasts following a 2021 agreement between state officials and the Biden administration. The Department of the Interior later identified two key areas to pursue: Morro Bay and Humboldt Bay.

In California, the focus is on deploying floating structures (compared to primarily fixed structures on the East Coast) because the outer continental shelf falls away much more quickly into far deeper waters in the Pacific than it does in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Department of Energy has invested more than $100 million in researching, developing and demonstrating the new floating technology.

In December 2022, BOEM offered five California outer continental shelf lease areas that totaled approximately 373,268 acres with the potential to produce over 4.5 GW of offshore wind energy, power more than 1.5 million homes and support thousands of new jobs.

BOEM formally executed these offshore wind leases in June of this year, BOEM Pacific Office spokesperson John Romero confirmed via email to Pacific Maritime.

The agency is actively working with lessees to ensure clarity on the next steps and federal requirements, directed by several stipulations included in the California leases. The provisions are designed to promote the development of a robust U.S. supply chain for offshore wind energy.

Several lease conditions were also developed to help improve communication and engagement between the lessees and Tribal Nations, federal and state agencies and stakeholders, Romero explained.

As for next steps, lessees have up to one year from lease execution to submit a site assessment plan for BOEM review. Upon approval, companies will have up to five years to conduct site assessment and characterization activities on their leases to help inform the development of a construction and operations plan for federal and state permitting and engineering and environmental reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

A lease from the federal government does not permit the construction of a wind farm, Romero emphasized. A construction and operations plan (COP) will go through technical and engineering reviews and environmental review under NEPA.

No construction can occur until a COP has received BOEM approval and all relevant federal and state permits.

The five leases in California are with RWE Offshore Wind Holdings, LLC, California North Floating LLC, Equinor Wind US LLC, Golden State Wind LLC (known as Central California Offshore Wind LLC when the lease was issued) and Invenergy California Offshore LLC.

In statements released after the auction, officials with all five companies shared comments about their plans for their respective projects.

“California is a natural next frontier for offshore wind development, not only in the U.S. market, but globally,” said Sam Eaton, executive vice president, offshore development in the  Americas for RWE Renewables.

In September, Equinor released a fisheries communications plan, which was developed to “present the proposed approach for Equinor to liaise and consult with the California-based fishing industry in relation to the development of offshore wind energy areas and their associated cable routes and landfall sites.”

The company also created an agency communications plan, which describes “approach, methodology and strategy to engage with federal, state and local agencies with authority related to the project during the planning, development, construction, operations and decommissioning phases of offshore windfarm development.”

On Oct. 7, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law, the Offshore Wind Expediting Act, that aims to speed up permitting for offshore wind development to help meet the state’s energy demand and climate goals.

The legislation authorizes the California Coastal Commission, the agency that oversees and regulates the use of land and water in the state’s coastal zone, to process consolidated coastal development permits and streamline the permitting process.

The law ensures that California will move quickly on offshore wind, said Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), who introduced the legislation, in an Oct. 7 statement.

“The signing of SB 286 shows the golden state is serious about bringing on desperately needed new renewable power generation and meeting the state’s nation-leading climate goals and energy needs,” McGuire said. “The quicker we get offshore wind infrastructure built off the golden state’s coast, the faster we’ll get family-sustaining jobs propped up and moving.”

As development projects progress on the West Coast through California’s five lessees, the lack of adequate port infrastructure needed for commercial-scale floating offshore wind projects has become evident. 

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the DOE’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development, is working on the West Coast Ports Strategy Study, which aims to identify and coordinate opportunities to create a strategic network of ports and port infrastructure upgrades.

Since the floating offshore wind projects likely won’t start until the late 2020s or early 2030s, the focus now is on building these infrastructure upgrades. 

For an efficient and sustainable network, there’s a need for three types of facilities: manufacturing/fabrication sites, where the wind turbine/platform components are constructed; staging and integration sites, where the components are assembled into a floating wind-turbine system that can be towed to the offshore site, and operation and maintenance sites, where vessels can travel to and from the offshore-wind facility for maintenance work.

There’s also a need to develop a local supply chain to support the offshore wind services. NREL also notes that improved collaboration and communication to establish long-term plans and best practices will be key in establishing the network.

Crowley, a logistics, marine and energy solutions company working on a terminal facility in Humboldt Bay to support the offshore wind energy industry, is interested in taking a leadership role in the logistics, installation and maintenance industries, Graham Tyson, the vice president of operations for Crowley Wind Services, told Pacific Maritime.

 “We want to build on our core competencies and terminal operations and marine transportation and supply chain to bring those together to offer more comprehensive solutions to developers, which may include investing in some of the specialized vessels needed to deploy floating offshore wind on the West Coast,” Tyson said.

“There’s a number of different port facilities that are going to be required on the West Coast. It’s going to be a network of facilities that are each conducting different parts of the operation,” he added. “Crowley hopes to be the glue that brings that network of ports together.”

There have been some important lessons learned from East Coast offshore wind projects, Tyson said.

“I think the biggest lesson learned is that the contracts between the developers and the states need to be developed flexibly with inflation protections and the building of a sustainable supply chain in mind. It’s hard to build a supply chain for a new industry from scratch and suddenly have it be super cheap and cost competitive,” he said. “You need to make those investments into facilities, into training and into vessels to make it happen.”

They are starting to see those factors being built into the new contracts being awarded on the East Coast, he pointed out.

“We’d like to see that repeated in California so that the entire supply chain can benefit and not be squeezed on costs,” Tyson said.

At Humboldt, they will install the wind turbine onto the floating foundation and tow it out. That requires no bridges, deep drafts, a good amount of lay-down space and a reinforced pier.

“It’s kind of the hardest problem to solve and that’s why Crowley elected to develop at Humboldt because it was, we believe, the best solution to that,” Tyson said.

“The Humboldt Bay was identified as one of the key staging and integration locations for offshore wind on the West Coast,” added Amy Monier, Crowley’s director of projects.

The Humboldt Bay Offshore Wind Heavy Lift Multipurpose Marine Terminal is in the early stages of planning by the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District. The district is proposing to redevelop a roughly 180-acre site on the Samoa Peninsula to provide the new terminal.

The most recent action on the plan, a California Environmental Quality Act draft Environmental Impact Report, will identify, evaluate and disclose possible environmental effects of the project.

On Nov. 2, U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) announced that $8.67 million has been awarded to the district to support the development of an offshore wind terminal.

Crowley joined the district in a public-private partnership to establish the groundbreaking facility in October 2022. The maritime company was selected to enter an exclusive right to negotiate as a partner for the development, design and operation of the Humboldt terminal.

In April, Crowley opened its first U.S. West Coast wind services office in Eureka, Calif., to support the project locally. Monier is leading the company’s wind services related to the Humboldt terminal and is currently working out of the new office.

Crowley said it anticipates that permits will be completed by 2025 to start the initial phase of construction by the end of 2025.

Another project that will play a critical role in supporting the offshore wind industry on the West Coast is progressing in line with the state and federal goals. 

Earlier this year, the Port of Long Beach released plans for a floating offshore wind facility, called Pier Wind. It would be the largest facility at any U.S. seaport specifically designed to support the manufacturing and assembly of offshore wind turbines.

The POLB is adjacent to a deep and wide federal navigation channel that provides direct access to the open ocean with no height restrictions and also already is connected to a robust supply chain with water, rail and roadway networks, thereby making it a prime location for a staging and integration facility.

Once the project is completed, the fully assembled turbines would be towed by sea from the port to offshore wind farms in central and northern California. The generators and accompanying floating foundations also would be towed by sea from the port.

According to the port’s concept study, released in April, to meet certain targets they need to work quickly.

“The schedule of the project is critical and must be delivered on an aggressive timeline to be ready for the offshore wind industry. The design criteria, means and method, and phasing of the project will continue to be evaluated throughout the design process to accelerate delivery to the maximum extent possible,” the document states.

The aggressive schedule listed in the report includes the contractor receiving notice to proceed on Jan. 1, 2027, with the first stage of phase one to be completed by Feb. 23, 2031  and phase two to be completed by Nov. 29, 2035.

Phase one includes the transportation corridor, railroad and transportation bridges, 200-acre terminal, 3,750 feet of wharf, sinking basin, tug dock and wet storage piers. Phase two includes the remaining 200 acres and another 3,750 feet of wharf.


Further north, Oregon is also working to meet its own offshore wind goals, although the state is still attempting to identify where the turbines could be placed.

BOEM continues to work closely with the state of Oregon on next steps in the offshore wind leasing and planning process, Romero said.

Oregon has established a goal of developing up to 3 GW of floating offshore wind energy projects within federal waters off the coast by 2030.

On Aug. 15, BOEM identified two draft wind energy areas (WEA)—one just north of the coast of Coos Bay and the second offshore from Brookings. The draft WEAs cover about 219,568 acres off the shore of southern Oregon with their closest points ranging from about 18 to 32 miles from the coast, according to a statement from the agency. The draft WEAs could tap up to 2.6 GW.

Officials noted that the state has “major opportunities for offshore wind deployment,” which could result in an economic boost and job growth. The deep waters off Oregon’s coast are also an opportunity to accelerate leadership in floating technologies for the U.S. 

Designated areas would be subject to an environmental review under NEPA for leasing and site assessment and site characterization activities. 

In addition to the environmental review, the leasing process includes the publication of a proposed sale notice and a final sale notice before BOEM can hold a lease auction. Both the NEPA review and the proposed sale notice include public review and input opportunities, Romero emphasized.

They are years away from putting actual steel in the water, he noted.

No construction can occur until a lease has been granted and a COP submitted for BOEM approval, along with environmental and agency review and issuance of all relevant federal and state permits.

“We know that the ocean is an incredibly important place to so many people, to so many communities. It serves a lot of uses. I have been saying a lot now that there’s no square inch of the ocean that someone doesn’t care about,” BOEM Director Elizabeth Klein said.

“The process (we) are in right now is really meant to try and identify the areas offshore, on the outer continental shelf, that hold the greatest promise for offshore wind, but also the greatest promise for minimizing the number, the amount, of conflicts early on so that when we finally get to the leasing process and there are real companies proposing real projects, that the number of conflicts that those projects will face at that time have been minimized for the greatest extent that we can,” she added.


Although there haven’t been any energy areas identified yet, there is interest in Washington.

On Oct. 10, Gov. Jay Inslee unveiled the Blue Wind Offshore Wind Supply Chain Initiative, a public/private campaign that the governor’s office said is expected to establish the state as a destination for the manufacture and export of offshore floating turbine components.

The initiative’s launch event also kicked off an effort to explore offshore wind energy for the state. Some plans are already being floated.

Hecate Energy is in the early stages of initiating the process for a project called Cascadia Wind, a conceptual idea for a floating, offshore wind facility near Grays Harbor and Pacific counties.

The company’s unsolicited lease request, submitted in 2022, kicked off a multi-year process with BOEM and the state to seek public input and conduct an environmental review, officials stated.

In Hecate’s application, officials wrote that the requested lease area would consist of up to 134 floating wind turbine generators, each with a capacity of 15 MW, resulting in an overall capacity of about 2,000 MW.  

Sara Hall has 15 years of experience at several regional and national magazines, online news outlets, and daily and weekly newspapers, where coverage has  included reporting on local harbor activities, marine-based news, and regional and state coastal agencies. Her work has included photography, writing, design and layout.