Trident Winds initiated a conversation about putting wind turbines in the water off the Central Coast in 2016 when it submitted a lease request for the ocean floor.
After three years—which were packed with meetings, public comment, and plenty of continued discussion—companies that want to develop wind farms in the Pacific Ocean will get their chance at leasing a spot in the water by 2020.
Trident, a project development company, set its sights on the Central Coast because of its existing energy plants: Morro Bay Power Plant (decommissioned in February 2014) and Diablo Canyon Power Plant (expected to be decommissioned by 2025). The area also sparked interest because Morro Bay is ideally situated for a cable that could transmit power from the wind farm to shore and avoid impacts to the coastal zone.
- Image Courtesy Of boem.gov
- WINDED A wind farm project off Morro Bay is projected to complete its first milestone in 2020.
In 2016, Trident Winds entered into a non-binding memorandum of cooperation agreement with the city of Morro Bay. It was a symbolic way for the city to express its interest in the company's proposed project.
In the same year, a task force consisting of members from the California Energy Commission and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was established to look into offshore wind as a potential source of renewable energy in the state. In 2018, the task force issued a call for information and nomination to assess the wind industry's interest in three areas along the coast: Morro Bay, Diablo Canyon, and Humboldt.
John Romero, BOEM's public affairs officer, told New Times that the task force is now looking toward BOEM's goal of an offshore wind lease sale in California in 2020 and other activities on the West Coast and Hawaii.
"Right now, for California, we're at the stage known as area identification. We had our call, and we did get 14 companies express[ing] interest in the areas that we identified in our call for information and nomination," Romero said.
The ocean is a busy place, so for BOEM and the other members of the task force, the call was also a time to gather comments and concerns from stakeholders. That included federal, state, and local agencies; fishing communities; and the public.
On Jan. 14, Morro Bay Commercial Fisherman's Organization President Tom Hafer submitted a comment letter on behalf of the organization stating that its members would rather not have any more fishing areas taken away from them.
"We realize that our area has the best infrastructure available and is highly ranked as a strong possibility for a lease site. In anticipation of this likely inevitable occurrence, we have negotiated a mutual benefit agreement," the letter stated.
Hafer said Castle Wind has been the only offshore wind energy company that has attempted to meet with the organization to discuss the potential impacts a wind farm could have on the local commercial fishing community. Castle Wind is a joint venture between Trident Winds and EnBW North America Inc.—supplier of electricity, gas, water, and energy-related products and services.
The Morro Bay Commercial Fisherman's Organization and Castle Wind Energy worked together to figure out an area that would have the least impact on commercial fishing and came up with a site near Piedras Blancas. On Oct. 6, 2018, the organization signed a legally binding mutual benefit agreement with the developer.
According to Castle Wind's nomination document, the agreement includes creating a fund for infrastructure improvements to benefit the local commercial fishing industry, training and employment opportunities, and opportunities for the local commercial fishing representatives to provide input into the project's design to minimize impacts to the industry.
Caste Wind also signed a legally binding agreement with the city of Morro Bay on Nov. 29, 2018. That agreement included hiring qualified local residents; wind farm internships and trainee programs at local schools and universities; establishing a maintenance and monitoring facility for the project; and promoting local businesses during the construction phase.
Castle Wind will also work with the city to generate "green solutions" with electric vehicles, charging stations, and other sustainable energy projects.
Morro Bay Mayor John Headding submitted a letter to BOEM on behalf of the city, expressing support for a responsibly constructed wind turbine project. Headding noted the city's concern with how the proposed project could affect the local commercial fishing industry, which is a core part of the community, history, and economy.
In the letter, Morro Bay requested that BOEM conduct a multi-factor lease auction that takes into account local stakeholder input—including legally binding agreements between wind energy farm developers and local stakeholders—and ensures that any wind energy area off the coast of California be large enough to produce a project or projects of sufficient scale to be economically viable and successful.
But before any wind farms are visible in the Pacific Ocean, BOEM Public Affairs Officer Romero said there is still a lot of information, public comment, assessments, and an eventual environmental impact review that need to take place.
"Any way you look at it, there's a strong level of interest in the potential of offshore wind and development in California," Romero said. "It's going to take a lot of discussions and a lot of collaboration within the state, local agencies, and local communities, all of the ocean users from fishing communities to tribes, the Department of Defense, and the general public.
"We're committed to follow a transparent process very closely with our partners in the state of California," he continued, "but also highly encourage the public and local communities to stay engaged." Δ
Staff Writer Karen Garcia can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.