gusts of wind at sea ahead | New
After years of anticipation, the prospect of creating a floating wind farm off the coast of Humboldt County, generating clean energy and economic growth, took a significant step forward last week.
Gov. Gavin Newsom joined Home Secretary Deb Haaland and other federal officials in announcing a deal that will allow the Home Office’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to offer a sale rental auction starting next year for two stretches of California Coast Waters. The first is a 399 mile stretch of the central coast northwest of Morro Bay and the second an unspecified site about 20 miles off Humboldt Bay.
“Developing offshore wind power to produce clean, renewable energy could be a game-changer for meeting California’s clean energy goals and tackling climate change, while strengthening the economy and creating new jobs,” said Newsom said in a press release. “This landmark announcement, which could deliver clean energy to up to 1.6 million homes over the next decade, represents the innovative approach we need for a clean energy economy that protects people. coastlines, fisheries, marine life, and the tribal and cultural resources that we appreciate so much. as Californians. “
While strong and constant winds off the north coast have long had tantalizing potential, the waters off the local coast are becoming too deep, too quickly for traditional permanent turbine technology. But recent years have seen the advent of floating platforms, which place turbines over 750 feet high attached to barges or partially submerged platforms which are then attached to the ocean floor, with the Scottish coast’s first deepwater wind farm opened on a large scale in 2017. State officials quickly noticed, believing that the offshore wind – which typically peaks in late production. afternoon and evening – could integrate with solar infrastructure, which typically peaks at noon and disappears at sunset, to reduce the need for expensive energy storage.
The central California coast was the obvious site, with its proximity to the state’s energy grid and population centers. But the US Navy has opposed the siting of any offshore wind development on most of the coast, saying it will veto potential Los Angeles projects north of Big Sur because they could interfere with them. military test operations. The Navy has since agreed not to oppose two sites – off Morrow and Humboldt Bays.
In 2018, Redwood Coast Offshore Wind, a partnership between Redwood Energy Authority, Ocean Winds and Aker Offshore Wind, submitted an unsolicited lease application to BOEM to initiate the process of creating an offshore wind farm off Humboldt Bay. Demand has remained mostly in purgatory as BOEM weighed its options, but will now be included in what is known as the North Coast Call Zone.
RCEA Director Matthew Marshall said BOEM will now go through a process of around a year to complete an initial environmental review with the aim of opening the sites for auction in 2022.
Redwood Coast Offshore Wind, Marshall said, plans to bid to develop a 100 to 150 megawatt project that will generate an amount of electricity roughly equivalent to Pacific Gas & Electric’s natural gas power plan through 10 to 15 wind turbines.
“This is the appropriate scale, I think, for a first step,” Marshall said, adding that there would be potential for expansion in the future.
However, a factor that will significantly limit the scale of any project off the north coast is the fact that the energy infrastructure does not currently exist to export large amounts of electricity from Humboldt County to other parts of the world. electrical network. Changing that would require either expanding high-capacity power lines east across Trinity County to connect to the state grid at Cottonwood, or building an undersea transportation system to the south, both costing hundreds of millions of dollars. Therefore, Marshall said he believes there will be less interest in companies looking to expand off the north coast.
“I think it will be a lot more competitive on the central coast,” he said. “The transmission constraints here are really well known and the opportunity here is much more modest, at least for the foreseeable future.”
Marshall said the BOEM auction will be what’s called multiple vectors, meaning it will take into account community benefit agreements and other “non-financial elements.” That said, such auctions are known to generate lucrative bids, with one for every three sites off the coast of Massachusetts in 2018 totaling $ 405.1 million.
Marshall said the RCEA did a lot of community engagement work in 2018, even reaching a memorandum of understanding with the Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association in which they agree to work together to identify, avoid, minimize and mitigate impacts on the commercial fishing industry, which they hope will garner support from the community and strengthen their offering.
A key element in determining the viability of offshore wind on the north coast will be the proposed Humboldt Bay port infrastructure improvements, which also received a boost last week, with the allocation of 11 million dollars in Newsom’s budget proposal. . The Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District is hoping to leverage the funds to secure an additional $ 44 million in matching funds, with a grant application due on July 30.
“Humboldt Bay is a deep draft port with underutilized coastal industrial land that could be revitalized and improved for the establishment of floating offshore wind projects,” said District Executive Director Larry Oetker , in a press release. “Developing a port facility specifically designed for the staging, construction, long-term operations and maintenance of offshore wind projects will position Humboldt County to maximize the local economic and job-creating benefits associated with offshore wind. . “
At present, the entrance to Humboldt Bay is deep and wide enough to accommodate barges pulling wind turbines to port for maintenance, but the bay’s docks – all of which were built primarily for loading and unloading of wood products – can not support the weight of the turbines, which turn about 500 tons. The improvements needed to the docks and the addition of the huge hoists needed to move the turbines could also create a host of other sailing opportunities.
While the project would initially depend on turbines built elsewhere and shipped to Humboldt Bay, it is possible that they will eventually be manufactured in the Samoa Peninsula as well, which could create dozens of well-paying jobs and trickle down financial impacts. .
For the immediate future, however, Marshall said the RCEA is focused on re-engaging the local community and various stakeholders for the nomination process. Once the bids were approved, he said there would be many levels of environmental review and clearance specific to the project.
“The partners we work with are engaged in offshore wind in general, and in particular to try to move a project forward here,” he said. “I’m optimistic.”
Iridian Casarez, editor of the newspaper, contributed to this report.
Thadeus Greenson (he / him) is the editor of the Journal. Contact him at 442-1400, ext. 321, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @thadeusgreenson.