The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management finalized its environmental review of a potential 1.6 GW of floating wind turbines off Humboldt’s Northern California coast, finding it would lead to no significant impact.
The analysis looks at development impacts over a 207 square-mile area 20 miles offshore.
“The completion of this Environmental Assessment represents an important step forward for ensuring that any future renewable energy development–should a lease sale occur—is done in a responsible manner,” BOEM Director Amanda Lefton stated May 5.
In late March, the California Energy Commission approved a $10.5 million grant for upgrades at the port of Humboldt to support an offshore wind industry. The 170-acre port will be the site of the Humboldt Bay Offshore Wind Heavy Lift Marine Terminal, which can handle massive wind turbine blades and other parts, plus heavy cargo vessels. The CEC grant is expected to lead to federal matching funds.
California has much deeper coastal waters than most other areas with either nascent or developed offshore wind industries, making large floating wind turbines moored to the seafloor far preferrable to fixed platforms or towers here. Floating turbines, which are more expensive, work in water depths up to 4,300 feet, according to BOEM.
In related news, BOEM extended to May 16 its public comment period on its draft environmental assessment of up to 3 GW of wind energy off Morro Bay on the Central California coast. Last November, the Bureau designated a zone 20 miles out from Morro Bay covering 376 square miles an official “Wind Energy Area.”
BOEM plans to hold a single California offshore wind lease auction for both Humboldt and Morro Bay wind areas in fall 2022, said spokesperson John Romero. In late February lease auctions for projects off the coasts of New York and New Jersey generated $4.4 billion in sales.
The development of a California offshore wind industry is part of the Biden Administration’s plan announced last May to bring online more than 30 GW of offshore wind energy on the East and West Coasts by the start of the next decade. Of that amount, 4.6 GW could be built off the coasts of Humboldt and Morro Bay, powering more than 1.5 million homes.
California has a massive coastline but only 6% is suitable for offshore wind development, BOEM’s Jeanne Thurston-Keller said. It is limited by the Department of Defense activities; human activities, principally fishing; legal and environmental requirements to protect birds, whales, and other aquatic critters; and cultural and visual criteria.