The Humboldt Bay area may become the site of the first offshore wind energy project on the west coast of North America. The pieces are quickly falling into place for Redwood Coast Energy Authority to become the first local government entity to apply for a commercial offshore wind lease from the federal government. Unlike land-based projects, this lease bid would be just the beginning of a series of studies and related permits that could culminate in project development in 5-7 years.
RCEA is preparing to submit a “lease bid” with an established offshore wind company for a pilot project 20-30 miles offshore that would include 10-15 floating wind turbines.
Why Off the Humboldt Coast? 
Why here? In short, we have wind, and lots of it. While this is not news to anyone, it may come as a surprise that this stretch of coast has some of the highest wind energy potential in North America. And when the U.S. Navy raised concerns about new offshore wind along most of the California coast last November because of potential conflicts with military activities, federal waters off Humboldt and Mendocino Counties (two of the few places that the Navy greenlighted) became the focus of wind energy proponents. Humboldt Bay is regarded as a good fit for such a project, with docks for building the floating wind turbines, a coastal population center and power grid tie-in, and no barriers to block barges needed to tow the 600-foot tall windfloats from the docks to the open ocean. Many are hopeful that floating offshore wind can help move the state away from fossil fuels.

Matthew Marshall, executive director of the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, explains why a public-private partnership wants to build what could be the country’s first floating wind farm, in the Pacific Ocean.
The waves crashing along the coast of Humboldt County, California, make visible just how much energy exists offshore. If all goes well, within a decade the Pacific Ocean in Northern California will be generating electricity from the first offshore floating wind farm set to be built in the United States.
Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) is a joint powers agency in the city of Eureka, California, that aggregates electricity demand on behalf of the county, a water district and seven cities. RCEA buys much of its energy from various renewable sources on the West Coast, but executive director Matthew Marshall wants to obtain more locally generated electricity. To that end, RCEA announced on April 2 that it had selected a consortium of five companies for a public-private partnership to develop a 100–150 megawatt (MW) floating wind farm 30km (20 miles) off the coast from Eureka. The group consists of Principle Power, EDPR Offshore North America, Aker Solutions, H.T. Harvey & Associates and Herrera Environmental Consultants.
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State and federal officials are engaged in an intensive planning process for the first auction of zones for development of giant wind farms in the Pacific.

But right before the first auction was to be announced, opposition emerged from an unexpected source: the U.S. Navy. After a year and a half of public hearings and outreach by a state-federal task force, the Navy suddenly signaled in August that it would veto the ocean area off San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties that was expected for the first wind farms. What’s more, the Navy claimed the entire offshore zone stretching from Los Angeles north to Big Sur, comprising 36,000 square miles, saying it is needed for military testing and thus is off-limits to wind farms.

State and federal officials are negotiating with the Navy to find a solution. But if the Navy refuses to budge, state officials will need to switch to their designated Plan B — a series of potential areas off Sonoma, Humboldt and Del Norte counties, where the Navy has raised no objections. Although interconnection to the grid would be more difficult in these areas, they would be suitable for initial wind farm projects while negotiations continue farther south.

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