Humboldt Offshore Wind Development Plan Wins $10M

By Published On: March 10, 2022

Adding an extra boost to emerging offshore wind in California, the California Energy Commission approved a $10.5 million grant for upgrades at the port of Humboldt. Initially, 1.6 gigawatts of floating wind turbines are expected to be sited 30 miles off the North Coast in federal waters.

The 168-acre port will be the site of the Humboldt Bay Offshore Wind Heavy Lift Marine Terminal, which can handle massive wind turbine blades and other parts, plus heavy cargo vessels. The new public money goes mainly to a new marine wharf and berths but the hope is that the port will be a floating turbine manufacturing and repair hub.

“Offshore wind is an important part of the state’s clean electricity future, providing critical supply at night to complement our abundant solar resources,” said Commissioner Kourtney Vaccaro at her first meeting.

Several California energy advisors have recently shifted places. Vaccaro has been serving as an advisor to Commissioner Karen Douglas, who was on the commission for 14 years. Gov. Gavin Newsom recently appointed Douglas as his energy advisor, taking over from Alice Reynolds, who was named president of the California Public Utilities Commission.

The CEC grant is expected to lead to federal matching funds, given the Biden Administration’s support for offshore wind development on both the west and east coasts.

An economic assessment found that turning the run-down terminal into an offshore wind energy center could generate 830 well-paying local jobs and lead to $130 million in industry output over a five-year period, according to the CEC.

Prime conditions

“Humboldt Bay has the optimal conditions to serve as the primary port for the offshore wind industry for the entire West Coast,” said Harbor District Board President Greg Dale. Unlike the East Coast, the West Coast has far fewer harbors and there are many miles between them, Larry Oetker, head of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District, told commissioners March 9.

Oetker also noted the harbor has no bridges or other obstructions to hamper the development of an offshore wind industry. The plan is to tow massive floating turbines–430 feet high and 300 feet wide– across the federal navigation channel. He added the 2 GW of transmission is also needed.

The port is working closely not only with the CEC but also the Redwood Coastal Energy Authority and private wind developers.

Oetker noted the offshore wind project is critical not only to help the once-thriving logging region but also because of the growing impacts of climate change, including sea-level rise.

Floating turbines are feasible in water depths up to 4,300 feet, said Doug Boren, with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Office of Strategic Resources. California has much deeper coastal waters than most other areas with either nascent or developed offshore wind industries. That means large floating turbines moored to the seafloor will work far better than fixed platforms or towers here.

California’s offshore buildout is part of the Biden Administration plan announced in May 2021 to develop more than 30 GW of ocean wind energy by 2030, with 4.6 GW off the coasts of Humboldt and Morro Bay.

Last month, BOEM raised $4.67 billion selling six offshore wind leases off the coast of New York and New Jersey. BOEM expects to issue bids for leases off the Humboldt Coast this fall.

The federal Bureau is coordinating its offshore wind efforts with the Energy Commission, other state agencies, the departments of Defense and Interior, and tribal governments.

The Energy Commission grant will be allocated in two parts, with some $800,000 for planning and environmental analysis. Then $9.6 million will be used to build the Humboldt marine wharf and berths.

The funding comes from the 2021–2022 State budget. Gov. Newsom proposed another $45 million in his 2022-23 budget blueprint for offshore wind development.

Legislation passed last year directed the Energy Commission to develop a comprehensive offshore wind development plan, including estimating the megawattage that can be developed economically and with minimal environmental harm.


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