Trump administration opens door for California offshore wind farms

Trump administration opens door for California offshore wind farms
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The Trump administration is considering allowing companies to build offshore wind farms off the coast of California.

Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeOvernight Energy: House Dems at odds over how to handle climate change | Trump shows support to California over wildfires | Zinke calls fires worse than Iraq war zones Zinke: California wildfire destruction 'worse than any war zone I saw in Iraq' Trump offers support to California governor amid feud over wildfires MORE said his department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will start taking comments this week on potential areas within about 1,073 square miles on California’s outer continental shelf that could host wind turbines.

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The announcement, initially made at an industry conference Wednesday, came alongside news that BOEM will hold an auction in December to sell the rights to build offshore wind farms in an area off Massachusetts’s coast and that officials will start the environmental review process for the proposed South Fork Wind Project, a 15-turbine wind farm off Rhode Island.

While the Trump administration has sought to promote fossil fuels across numerous policy actions, Zinke said officials also strongly support wind power.

“I'm very bullish on offshore wind, and harnessing this renewable resource is a big part of the Trump administration's made in America energy strategy,” Zinke said in a statement.

“We are always looking at new ways to increase American innovation and productivity to provide abundant and affordable energy for our homes and manufacturers. I think this is a win for America.”

The United States currently has just one utility-scale offshore wind farm, the Block Island project off Rhode Island. Companies have leased spots off the East Coast for other potential wind projects.

California Gov. Jerry Brown (D) and other leaders in the state, along with the wind industry, have been pushing to explore whether offshore wind can thrive there. Due to the deep water off California, turbines may have to float, a technology that isn’t as developed as traditional turbines that are built into the sea floor.

The National Offshore Industry Association (NOIA), which represents companies in offshore oil, natural gas and wind, cheered Zinke’s announcement.

“The secretary’s commitment to leasing multiple new areas offshore Massachusetts is exciting and we expect to see NOIA member companies actively pursuing those leases during the auction this December. In addition, the upcoming call for commercial interest in areas offshore California presents a tremendous new opportunity for the offshore wind industry to expand to both sides of the continental U.S.,” Randall Luthi, the group’s president, said in a statement.