The Redwood Coast Energy Authority, with support from several private companies, is one step closer to developing the first offshore wind farm on the West Coast, according to its executive director Matthew Marshall.
The authority, along with Principle Power, Aker Solutions, and EDP Renewables, recently submitted a lease application to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. According to Marshall, if approved the lease would give the authority and its partners “site control” over an ocean area of approximately 70 square miles, meaning they have exclusive project rights to that area. This doesn’t mean the project will span 70 square miles, Marshall said, instead it defines the boundaries of where Redwood Coast could put the project.
The proposed wind farm would consist of 10 to 15 wind turbines, capable of producing 100-150 megawatts, according to Marshall.
“That’s enough energy for about 70,000 households,” Marshall said. “Offshore wind is the largest untapped resource we have.”
Jennifer Kalt, director of Humboldt Baykeeper, underlined the reality of the situation, saying that ultimately we “need to get off fossil fuels.”
“We don’t know a lot about the critters that live that far offshore,” Kalt said. “The first step is getting info from surveys they’ll be doing.”
She added, “Humboldt Baykeeper is cautiously optimistic because it’s a local government agency, the board is composed of elected officials who have exhibited concern and value on working with communities and stake holders.”
Emphasizing the importance of the ocean to Humboldt’s community, Kalt said, “we need to slow down the effects of climate change on the ocean. Sea level change and ocean acidification (caused by climate change) will affect this area significantly,” she said.
This project, Kalt said, provides an opportunity to “have a community scale offshore wind project that can be developed in a way that’s protective to bay and marine life. Working with different stakeholders that rely on the health of the bay is important and might be what ultimately makes or breaks the project.”