This spring, we will begin work on an offshore wind feasibility study funded by the California Ocean Protection Council, a division of the California Natural Resources Agency. Focused on the northern California coast, this one-year project includes analysis of the environmental impacts, coastal infrastructure requirements, stakeholder benefits and concerns, and regulatory policies that relate to offshore wind development.
Along this region’s rugged coastline, ocean depth drops quickly below 50 meters, meaning that fixed-bottom offshore wind turbines – common to the East Coast and northern Europe – are not suited to this area. Instead, turbines can be mounted to a floating platform, which is tethered to the ocean floor at depths up to 1,100 meters. Our study is looking at the feasibility of floating wind farms in waters 20-30 miles outside Humboldt Bay (as outlined by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Call for Information) and off Cape Mendocino.
Major project elements
This project is focused on four key issues related to the feasibility of offshore wind in northern California:
- Environmental characteristics – Installation of wind turbines, interconnection points, and transmission cables would have an effect on marine and coastal environments. The project team is analyzing the most likely and potential environmental impacts associated with offshore wind development, including impacts on marine ecosystems, resident and migratory birds, benthic organisms, marine mammals, fish, and other relevant organisms in offshore and onshore locations.
- Coastal infrastructure – The Port of Humboldt Bay is the northernmost deepwater port in California, giving it good potential to support installation and maintenance of offshore wind farms. Upgrades or expansion of the port and other coastal infrastructure are likely to be required to best serve a nascent offshore wind industry. Our project is assessing the current state of port infrastructure, determining the compatibility with offshore wind development, and outlining the improvements that may be required. In addition, the project team will evaluate how upgrades to the port can provide co-benefits to other ocean resource users.
- Stakeholder benefits and concerns – The project team is working to identify benefits and concerns for a variety of stakeholders regarding offshore wind energy development and, where applicable, determining approaches to address their concerns. Stakeholders include, but are not limited to, the Humboldt commercial and recreational fishing community, labor unions, environmental organizations, regulators, barge and other maritime transport operations, marine tourism businesses, local governments, the general business community, electric utilities, and others. Additionally, the analysis will assess the potential for job creation associated with development of an offshore wind project/industry.
- Policy evaluation and recommendations – The project team will investigate the implications of federal, state, and local policy and regulatory decisions that relate to the development of the offshore wind resource in California and determine how alterations to policies and regulatory decisions might change the location and pace of offshore wind development. This analysis could involve policy recommendations to agencies at the federal, state, and local levels.
We are collaborating on this project with ecological consultants from H.T. Harvey and Associates, coastal engineering specialists from Mott MacDonald, and faculty in the Economics and Environmental Science & Management departments at Humboldt State.