A pair of floating wind farms proposed for state waters off the coast of Vandenberg Space Force Base will undergo further environmental analysis despite multiple concerns, including from the local fishing industry.
The California State Lands Commission last month voted to direct staff to hire a consultant to conduct the environmental impact report on the pilot projects involving a total of eight floating wind turbine generators before any decision about whether to grant the leases.
Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, who serves as chair of the commission, said supporting development of an EIR doesn’t guarantee the Vandenberg Offshore Wind Energy Projects will move forward.
“It does not pre-judge approval of the project. In fact, the environmental review may demonstrate that these projects could result in environmental impacts so unacceptable that the entire project cannot move forward,” Kounalakis said. “The important piece to consider is that the EIR will provide us with the facts and analysis to make an informed decision, transparently reflecting all the facts and the potential benefits and tradeoffs to ensure our decision reflects the state’s values and priorities.”
The decision to conduct a full environmental impact report came after completion of a preliminary assessment of the pair of pilot projects that submitted applications in 2019 to generate energy to Vandenberg and the power grid.
CADEMO, by a renewable energy development company, and IDEOL USA Inc., led by a floating offshore wind technology company, have submitted applications for projects off the South Base coast.
CADEMO, involving a partnership led by Palm Springs-based Cierco Corp., wants to install and operate four offshore floating wind turbines (FWT) that would be moored and anchored to the seafloor. The firm will examine the performance of two distinct floating foundation platforms – barge and tension-leg – to determine the best option.
According to the application, each wind turbine would be capable of producing 12 to 15 megawatts of renewable electricity. A combined maximum of 60 MW could be generated from the proposed four wind turbines, which would be connected in a series with electrical inter-array cables.
San Francisco-based IDEOL has been involved in engineering floating foundations in France for offshore wind. Its patners include BayWa r.e., the firm behind the Strauss Wind Energy Project under construction on a ridge just east of Vandenberg’s border and southwest of Lompoc.
IDEOL would install up to four offshore wind turbine generators, capable of producing up to 10 MW each, on the floating foundations.
Each turbine would be supported by a floating foundation – in this case, a semi-submersible concrete barge, which in turn will be moored to the seabed, with two anchoring options under investigation.
Each project would have a number of related pieces of equipment and its own new substation.
During the State Lands Commission meeting, some speakers contended that the project would not be in the state’s best interests, while others noted the need for jobs.
Many of the concerns, such as potential deaths of birds and bats, echoed those aired about the onshore Strauss wind farm.
But the offshore pilot projects also drew strong opposition from the fishing industry and others concerned about the marine life.
Jesse Barrios from the Port San Luis Commercial Fishermen’s Association, noted that the proposed sites sit near Point Arguello and Point Conception.
“This seems like a horrible area to do a test site or a proof of project. It’s smack in the middle of basically one of our most productive fishing areas and just overall wildlife areas,” Barrios said. “I’ve said before this is like doing a test flight of a plane full of passengers. It doesn’t really make much sense why we’re doing to a test right here.”
“This location is not the right place for any project, and we do not need an EIR to tell us of the environmental and ecological damage that will be caused,” said Lauren Cullum from the Sierra Club California.
The preliminary environmental assessment for the Vandenberg Offshore Wind Energy Projects can be found by clicking here.
After hiring a consultant for the environmental impact report, the State Lands Commission is expected to hold public scoping meetings to collect input about what aspects should be analyzed. Those scoping meetings most likely will occur in early 2022, according to a State Lands Commission representative.
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