Renewable & Geothermal Energy

The Commission provides leadership and expertise on renewable and geothermal energy development on state-owned lands. Our focus is on marine renewable energy, desert renewable energy, geothermal energy, and offshore wind energy. Staff negotiates leases for renewable energy projects and contributes to interagency working groups that develop strategies to achieve science-based renewable energy development.

Floating wind turbines in the ocean.

Offshore Wind Energy Development

The Commission is committed to innovative solutions for climate change and the responsible development of renewable energy. An updated study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory indicates that areas off the west coast have strong potential for generating large amounts of energy and can help California meet its renewable energy goals. Given the depth of the ocean along the California Coast, floating offshore wind is the most suitable technology to harness this resource. The Commission supports environmentally responsible offshore renewable energy development and is an integral part of making offshore renewable energy a reality in California.

The Commission issues leases for offshore renewable energy projects in state waters. The process of evaluating lease applications requires using the best available science and California Environmental Quality Act review. The Applications for Offshore Wind Energy Development in State Waters webpage provides information about offshore renewable energy, our jurisdiction, vital environmental information, the lease application review process, and existing applications.

The Leathers Geothermal Facility

Geothermal Energy

Geothermal energy has provided California with clean, reliable, and affordable electricity for over 50 years. California contains the largest amount of geothermal generating capacity in the nation, with 25 known geothermal resource areas. The Commission issued its first geothermal prospecting permit near the Salton Sea in Imperial County—nearly 50 years ago. And production and use of geothermal resources from state-owned lands the Commission manages has been occurring for nearly four decades at the Geysers Geothermal Field, the world’s most developed geothermal resource area.

The Commission owns a 100 percent mineral interest in 7,247 acres under lease at the Geysers, and a 1/16th mineral interest in another 895 acres. Geysers Power Company LLC and CPN Wild Horse Geothermal LLC, both subsidiaries of Calpine Corporation, hold these leases. The Commission’s geothermal leases and permits generate revenue from royalties on steam production and electricity generation at the Geysers Geothermal Field in Sonoma and Lake Counties. Geothermal royalties totaled $5,927,020 in fiscal year 2021-22.

Desert Renewable Energy

The Commission owns over 340,000 acres of land in the desert that have abundant potential for renewable energy development. Most of these lands, however, are not contiguous and exist in a checkerboard pattern, making renewable energy development challenging. The Commission is working to consolidate the lands into sites that have the potential for larger renewable energy development.

AB 982 (Skinner), Chapter 485, Statutes of 2011, requires the Commission to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement with the Department of the Interior (via the Bureau of Land Management) to facilitate land exchanges that consolidate parcels into contiguous holdings for large renewable energy development. Exchanges must prioritize development that is consistent with the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan (DRECP), which is a state-federal planning effort to facilitate renewable energy production in the desert. In October 2015, the Commission and the Bureau of Land Management signed a Memorandum of Intent to exchange approximately 61,000 acres of non-revenue generating school lands in federal wilderness and other conservation areas for approximately 5,600 acres of federal lands with the potential for, or previously developed with, renewable energy facilities.

Ocean vista in Monterey County.

Marine Renewable Energy

The Commission is involved in the Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force that is exploring renewable wind and wave energy development opportunities in federal offshore waters along California’s Coastline. The Task Force allows for coordination between federal, state, tribal, and stakeholder interests regarding offshore renewable energy projects. Commission staff is also part of the Marine Renewable Energy Working Group and authored an informational report about marine renewable energy, environmental impacts, and advancing California’s goals.

The planning, permitting, and development of marine renewable energy are challenging and require careful balancing of clean energy goals with the highest levels of environmental protection. Marine renewable energy devices have been deployed elsewhere in the world, but not in California waters. There is increasing interest in offshore wind, wave, and tidal energy development in California to achieve a clean energy economy. The Commission facilitates coordination and provides leadership in science and in the regulatory pathways that are essential to developing marine renewable energy technologies.