A key gatekeeper with the U.S. Navy says they are ready to move forward on plans for offshore wind along the Central Coast – particularly efforts to install floating turbines off of Morro Bay.
Navy encroachment program director Steve Chung says a new collaboration launched last summer that included himself, Assistant Secretary of Defense Robert McMahon and the chair the California Energy Commission (CEC) has been working with local legislative leaders led by Congressman Salud Carbajal, D-Santa Barbara, on a monthly basis since.
The working group is tasked to find a way to identify locations for offshore wind in federal waters off the Central Coast, despite serious misgivings from the Navy.
Chung has been adamant in the past that the Navy could not support virtually any project that sought to set up in its wind exclusion zone where it has operations. Still, Chung agreed in the last year to ”keep talking.”
New map coming out
Overseeing the process on the federal side is the Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM), which is in charge of leases in federal waters beyond three miles offshore.
BOEM spokesperson John Romero says since that last summer, the SLO-based working group “has made a lot of progress” that will now result in a new map being published in the next few days by the state Energy Commission that could move the project forward after four years of waiting.
“Nothing is ever easy,” said Romero, who has tracked the give and take the over the issue.
The map will identify locations the Navy and Department of Defense might accept.
Romero added that a public meeting will likely be held in Morro Bay in late March or April to go over the working group’s map.
Where wind farms could go
A recent study suggested California has three areas where offshore wind might take hold: off the coasts of Morro Bay, Diablo Canyon and Northern California.
The Navy has little objection to offshore projects in Northern California, but that area lacks a robust and available transmission capacity, despite the ample wind.
The study concludes that “the three proposed BOEM lease areas (Morro Bay, Diablo Canyon, Humboldt Bay) and two additional zones in Northern California (Cape Mendocino and Del Norte)” together “represent more than three times California’s current onshore wind capacity and, if developed to their maximum potential, could provide approximately 25 percent of the state’s future electricity needs.”
California’s goal is to eventually power the grid with 100% renewable energy.
Romero says a key factor in favor of offshore wind on the Central Coast is the availability of existing transmission infrastructure that could link the turbines to the state grid. That includes the transmission lines from the shuttered Morro Bay Power Plant and Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, which is slated for closure in 2025.
Even if BOEM takes the next big step and calls for bids to set up in federal waters, it will be a competitive process . A dozen international companies have expressed interest in a lease, including Castle Wind, which has lobbied the City of Morro Bay and the fishing industry for support.
John Lindt is the editor of the sierra2thesea.net news site.
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