In the coming years, two areas off the Northern and Central California coast will be home to offshore wind power generating platforms, thanks to a new agreement between the state and the federal government.
Earlier this week, Governor Gavin Newsom and the Biden Administration announced an agreement to build wind farms in a 399-square-mile area off the Central Coast, northwest of Morro Bay, as well as a second area off the North Coast near Eureka. As KPIX reports, as part of the agreement, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will offer a lease sale to the state as early as 2022.
The wind turbines or windmills won't be visible from the coast, it doesn't sound like — the areas where they're set to be installed are reportedly 20 to 30 miles from land.
Over the next decade, these wind-power sites are estimated to be able to provide 4.6 gigawatts of clean energy to the California grid.
"I believe that a clean energy future is within our grasp in the United States," said Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland. "Today’s announcement reflects months of active engagement and dedication between partners who are committed to advancing a clean energy future. The offshore wind industry has the potential to create tens of thousands of good-paying union jobs across the nation, while combating the negative effects of climate change."
Newsom added his own statement, saying, "Developing offshore wind to produce clean, renewable energy could be a game changer to achieving California’s clean energy goals and addressing climate change — all while bolstering the economy and creating new jobs. This historic announcement, which could provide clean power for up to 1.6 million homes over the next decade, represents the innovative approach we need for a clean energy economy that protects the coasts, fisheries, marine life and Tribal and cultural resources we value so much as Californians."
The two sites still need to be finalized and to undergo environmental review, and Secretary Haaland said that officials are "not going to prejudge the process." The project will next be brought before an intergovernmental task force meeting on June 24.
As the Chronicle reports, there are already two offshore wind farms off the Atlantic coast, and the Biden Administration has signed off another wind project near Martha's Vineyard, off the Massachusetts coast.
Discussions about offshore wind farm development go back a number of years in California. In 2017, during Trump's time in office, the U.S. Navy issued a blanket rejection of any wind-farm development off the coast between Los Angeles and Big Sur. The move was seen as odd at the time, because the Navy's justification — that it needed these waters for military exercises and testing — ran counter to the fact that they already shared these waters with commercial shipping channels, offshore oil rigs, and commercial fisheries.
Now, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl says that the Pentagon will be working with state and federal agencies to make sure the projects don't interfere with the military's needs.
Nancy Rader, executive director of the California Wind Energy Association, said in comments to the Chronicle following Tuesday's announcement that the new agreement was "a major breakthrough." But, she cautioned that there will be major challenges ahead.
"Offshore wind development off the coast at Morro Bay and Humboldt will require a major port facility in each area to construct the floating platforms and assemble the turbines that will require continued proactive planning by the state and federal governments," Rader said.
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