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California and US agree to allow big offshore wind farms

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — California and the U.S. government announced an agreement Tuesday to open up areas off the state's central and northern coasts to the first commercial wind energy farms on the Pacific Coast.



The pact that would float hundreds of turbines off the coast of Morro Bay and Humboldt Bay was touted as a breakthrough to eventually power 1.6 million homes and help the state and federal government reach ambitious climate change goals through clean energy production.


“California, as we all know, has a world class offshore wind resource, and it can play a major role in helping to accelerate California’s and the nation’s transition to clean energy,” National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy said.


The plan includes floating 380 windmills across a nearly 400-square-mile (1,035-square-kilometer) expanse of sea 20 miles (32 kilometers) northwest of Morro Bay. The site could be finalized next month and could be put up for lease next year.



The new projects — if approved and built — would provide a major expansion of offshore wind power in the U.S. Currently, there are just two working offshore wind farms — off Block Island in Rhode Island and off Virginia — but more than two dozen others are in development.


The projects will require several stages of approval — from an early review by the Coastal Commission to federal and state environmental reviews after a lease sale, said Sandy Louey of the California Energy Commission.


Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said he included $20 million in his revised budget proposal this month that would help expedite environmental review of the projects.


“We value process but not the paralysis of a process that takes years and years and years that can be done in a much more focused way,” Newsom said.


Environmental groups — including Audubon and the Natural Resources Defense Council — issued statements in support of the project with the caveat that fish, seabirds and marine mammals are protected.


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