The Golden State’s zero-carbon future depends in part on offshore wind. A new bill would let the state kick-start the sector by serving as an anchor customer.

California has a goal of building gigawatts of wind power off its coast by the end of the decade. To meet that goal, it has to create a floating offshore wind industry from scratch.

Last week, state lawmakers took a key step in that process: passing a bill that would help California kick-start its nascent offshore wind industry by purchasing massive amounts of power from early-stage projects that might be too big or too risky for other potential buyers.

The passage of AB 1373, which Governor Gavin Newsom (D) has pledged to sign into law, is just the first in a series of steps needed to build the massive offshore transmission lines, port facilities, turbine manufacturing capacity and extensive supply chains needed to reach its goals. But energy industry groups agree that without the central procurement mechanism the bill aims to create, California’s offshore wind ambitions won’t become reality.

This was the tip-of-the-spear issue,” said Molly Croll, director of Pacific offshore wind at American Clean Power, a clean energy trade group. It doesn’t provide complete market certainty — but it provides much more market clarity than we had before.”

If signed into law, AB 1373 would allow the California Public Utilities Commission to authorize the California Department of Water Resources, which operates dams and aqueducts across the state, to sign contracts committing to purchase gigawatts’ worth of generation from yet-to-be-built offshore wind farms and then pass the costs on to all Californians.

Click here to read more from Canary Media about California’s push to develop offshore wind and Equinor’s leadership in floating wind.