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Morro Bay wind farm is a bad idea


According to a recent New Times article, it appears that this Morro Bay wind farm business is coming along ("Morro Bay wind farm project is back in motion," May 27). They are proposing floating platforms far out to sea, somewhat based on experience with oil and gas offshore development. Floating wind platforms have only been experimental so far, but the few actually in place have been reported as mostly successful. The project will involve 100 massive turbines of around 10 MW (megawatt) capacity with blades the length of a soccer field. The ocean depth is way more than a mile in the proposed location so the project will be expanding into new territory on several levels, and, as one might expect, so will the costs. It will require massive subsidies for an installation that may only last 20 to 30 years.

The project boasts a 1,000 MW capacity, but wind turbines are incapable of producing at 100 percent of capacity year round. In 2020, California wind power only performed at 26 percent of name plate capacity for the year. So this project is likely to only actually produce in the neighborhood of a quarter to a third of its nameplate capacity annually depending on typical wind speeds in the project zone, which are less than spectacular, and the intraday and seasonal variability of wind speeds, which can be substantial in California. This unpredictability will require a substantial ongoing amount of carbon-emitting, fossil fuel backup generation to guarantee the stability of the grid.

The most important issue by far is the fact that there is no synergy between wind and solar in California because they both have their production peaks and lows at the same time during the day and throughout the year, which means that they are in competition. Renewables overproduction—energy that cannot be sold and used at the time it is produced—has been rising rapidly in California. Since California has already begun to produce more renewable energy than it can efficiently use, much of the added wind power produced by this project will go to waste.

So it appears that the developers and our politicians are asking us to pay a premium on top of what are already among the highest electricity rates in the country for something that has never been done before on such a scale and may not even work; whose costs cannot be accurately predicted because it has never been done before; whose inherent unpredictability will require a constant supply of carbon-emitting backup; and for power production much of which is likely to go to waste. Maybe it is just me but I think it is a very bad idea.

Mark Henry

San Luis Obispo

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