California Offshore Wind: Workforce Impacts and Grid Integration

Recent studies by the California Energy Commission and California Public Utilities Commission indicate that the state will require two to six times more renewable energy capacity by 2045. However, California’s planning processes have only recently begun to consider offshore wind as a component of this future energy supply. In the United States, several Northeastern states have made offshore wind a cornerstone of their future clean energy portfolios. California differs from the East Coast and much of Europe in that the state’s deep coastal waters will require its wind turbines to be on floating platforms rather than on structures fixed to the seabed. While the cost of floating offshore wind today is higher than fixed-bottom offshore wind, the technology is well understood and its cost is expected to decline rapidly with commercialization and greater scale of deployment. USC Sea Grant funded a study to address several questions for California in the years and decades ahead: 1) what benefits would the emergence of a major offshore wind power sector create for California workers and communities; 2) what policies might optimize these impacts; and 3) would offshore wind power be a competitive source of renewable energy in comparison to other clean energy sources? 

Key Results:

  • Collaborated with the California Energy Commission to identify zones for potential future offshore wind development, with Humboldt Bay, Cape Mendocino, and Del Norte offering the most valuable wind resources in the longer term.
  • Identified about 20 GW of viable offshore wind resources in California in five zones which represents more than three times California’s current onshore wind capacity and, if developed to their maximum potential, could provide approximately 25 percent of the state’s future electricity needs
  • The largest economic benefits from the offshore wind industry would occur if an in-state supply chain were developed for the primary components of wind turbine generators as well as the floating platforms, thus creating thousands of manufacturing and construction jobs


Project Impacts & Application:

  • Collaborated with the California Public Utilities Commission so that the commission could adopt the results directly into its biannual Integrated Resource Plan, which govern the state’s renewable power procurement process—marking the first time that a California state agency had adopted offshore wind into its power planning processes
  • Presentations at the 2019 Pacific Rim Offshore Wind Conference and the 2019 California Energy Commission’s Integrated Energy Policy Report Workshop


Principal Investigators:

  • Robert Collier, UC Berkeley Labor Center
  • Sanderson Hull, Energy and Environmental Economics, Inc.
  • Oluwafemi Sawyerr, Energy and Environmental Economics, Inc.



California Ocean Protection Council, 2018-2021


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