Our electricity is currently sourced primarily from wind, solar, and hydropower from California and the Pacific Northwest, plus local biomass. We are collaborating with various other entities to create new sources of energy and long-term contracts that will continue to expand the capacity and stability of our local and state grid.

Power Mix

We are committed to providing power that is higher in renewable energy than PG&E and lower in greenhouse emissions at competitive rates.

RCEA’s 2019 Power Source Disclosure is subject to review and approval by the California Energy Commission and verification by a third-party auditor.

REpower logo
REpower plus logo, 100% renewable electricity

RCEA’s default service is REpower, with a minimum goal of a 40% carbon-free power mix.

Customers who want to invest in a higher renewable content can opt up to REpower+, which provides 100% carbon-free energy service for their home or business.

  • Large Hydro
  • Biomass and Biowaste
  • Wind
  • Eligible Hydropower
  • Solar PV
  • <1% of Natural Gas
  • <1% of Nuclear
  • Unspecified Power
  • Other
  • Biomass
  • Solar
  • Wind

Power Content Label

This power content label below is sent to customers every year in compliance with the California Energy Commission’s Power Source Disclosure Program.

RCEA Power Content Label

Direct and Long-Term Procurement:

Biomass

The term biomass refers to materials of biological origin, such as forest and agricultural waste, that can be used as fuel for generating electric power. Local biomass power makes up approximately one-fourth of Redwood Coast Energy Authority’s current electricity portfolio. We have had contracts with Humboldt Sawmill Company in Scotia and DG Fairhaven Power on the Samoa peninsula, which use waste material from local sawmills to power their plants.

Humboldt Redwood Company's biomass power plant in Scotia

RCEA includes biomass as a portion of our current power mix for a number of reasons:

  • Biomass power is currently the only utility-scale (i.e. multi-megawatt) source of renewable electricity in the county and serves as a starting point toward our goal of 100% local renewable power. Our biomass contracts to date are relatively short term (1 to 5 years) and allow us to keep our options open for the future as we seek to diversify our local renewables portfolio.
  • Biomass power plants primarily use mill waste that would otherwise need to be disposed of by an alternative means. In the absence of the local biomass plants, our sources in the forest products industry tell us they would resort to trucking the material to more distant power plants, thus increasing total emissions. Other alternatives for local use of the wood waste may be feasible, such as composting or production of durable goods. However, to our knowledge no one is currently positioned to implement these solutions locally at the needed scale. The local mill waste stream is abundant enough that the local plants are able to fulfill their RCEA power contracts without harvesting trees specifically for feedstock.
  • Biomass power plants provide high-skill blue collar jobs that strengthen the local economy.
  • Humboldt County is the number one forest products producer among California’s 58 counties. Bioregionally, it makes sense to use local mill waste here, just as it makes sense to use local geothermal power in Sonoma and Lake Counties, wind in the Tehachapi and Altamont wind areas, and solar power in the deserts of southeastern California.

At the time we launched our program, we paid a premium price for local renewable power, in consideration of the plants’ relatively high operating costs and the community benefits discussed above. However, we have since renegotiated these contracts to bring them more in line with prices paid in this region for other forms of renewable power.

Some community members have expressed concern about the emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) and air pollutants from the biomass plants. RCEA’s biomass contracts call for strict compliance with federal, state, and local environmental regulations, including air emissions. The state’s GHG emissions rules for power plants count only the “non-biogenic” emissions from fossil fuels such as natural gas that are used at these plants to start up equipment. These fuels make up a relatively small part of the plants’ total fuel use. Emissions from the biomass itself are accounted for by the state separately in the forestry sector, per internationally accepted GHG accounting standards.

Frequently Asked Questions

How many trees are being cut down for electricity production at the local biomass plants?

Response: The plants utilize waste from local lumber mills, not whole trees, as their primary fuel source (according to local forest products industry sources, some whole trees from operations such as roadside vegetation management may be sent directly to the biomass plants). In the absence of the plants, the material would otherwise need to be disposed of by an alternative means, most likely trucking it to more distant power plants, thus increasing total emissions. The local mill waste stream is more than sufficient to allow the plants to fulfill their RCEA power contracts without harvesting trees specifically for feedstock.

How many trees are being cut down for electricity production at the local biomass plants?

Response: The plants utilize waste from local lumber mills, not whole trees, as their primary fuel source (according to local forest products industry sources, some whole trees from operations such as roadside vegetation management may be sent directly to the biomass plants). In the absence of the plants, the material would otherwise need to be disposed of by an alternative means, most likely trucking it to more distant power plants, thus increasing total emissions. The local mill waste stream is more than sufficient to allow the plants to fulfill their RCEA power contracts without harvesting trees specifically for feedstock.

Is the biomass power RCEA is buying more expensive than other renewables?

Response: Biomass power is typically more costly than other forms of renewable energy, mainly because it is more labor-intensive to produce. For Humboldt County, this can mean higher power costs, but also means skilled local jobs that help strengthen our economy. RCEA originally contracted its biomass procurement at the lowest price offered to us under a competitive solicitation for biomass power. This was substantially higher than what we were paying for renewable power from other, non-local sources. However, we have since renegotiated this contract to a lower price, and entered a second biomass contract at a comparable price that, inclusive of all power products in the contracts, is approximately at parity with our other renewable resources. RCEA’s current effort to contract for long-term renewables is expected to bring us contracts at prices below what we currently pay for biomass power, as we strive to maintain an affordable power mix.

We should source 100% of our electricity from zero greenhouse gas sources such as solar and wind instead of biomass.

Response: RCEA includes substantial amounts of solar and wind power in our portfolio and is striving to develop these resources locally. Biomass is a “baseload” resource, meaning it can be used to serve electricity demand at any time of day or night to balance out the production from intermittent renewables. Wind and solar are not baseload resources, and thus are not available on-demand. Battery storage can alleviate this issue but is not yet cost-effective to deploy at the scale that would be needed to replace biomass’s baseload function in the local power mix.

Can improvements be made to the biomass plants to modernize them and reduce their greenhouse gas and particulate emissions?

Response: RCEA’s current contracts call for power producers to comply with all laws and regulations, including emissions limits. Beyond this, we do not dictate what equipment is to be used to control emissions. Some plant improvements have been made since RCEA began contracting for biomass power, and data to become available to the public in the future through the California Air Resources Board and the California Energy Commission, will show whether this is resulting in lower emissions per unit of energy produced. Further improvements in the plants are possible, but the operators are unlikely to make these investments unless they are ordered to by regulators or offered a higher price for power with plant improvements as a contractual condition.

Clarifications:

Biomass vs. vehicle emissions: The local biomass power plants together emit less greenhouse gasses than from on-road vehicles in Humboldt County. The comparison referenced in some of the submitted comments only accounted for emissions from vehicles in the unincorporated county and excluded emissions from vehicles in the seven incorporated cities.

Biomass contract length: RCEA is not in a long-term contract with either of the biomass plants. We are in a five-year contract with Humboldt Redwood Company and a one-year contract (with option to renew each year) with DG Fairhaven. Long-term contracts are ten-year and above, as defined by the state for compliance with SB 350 (the law requiring us and load-serving entities to procure at least 65% of our state-mandated renewable energy under long-term contracts starting in 2021).

Humboldt State University Capstone Class on Alternative Biomass Uses

RCEA’s RePower Humboldt 2019 strategic plan update (PDF)  includes strategies addressing Humboldt County’s biomass management needs: 1) Support biomass fuels reduction and utilization, and 2) Plan for a long-term transition away from direct combustion of forest-derived biomass and toward lower-impact uses of this material. In support of these strategies, students of Drs. Sintana Vergara and Tesfayohanes Yacob’s spring 2020 Environmental Resources Engineering capstone design project class focused on alternative biomass uses. 

The students worked in six teams and identified and evaluated different energy and non-energy biomass uses. RCEA Power Resources staff acted as clients for the class. Here are the teams’ findings:

An HSU Capstone Class Presentation on Alternative Biomass Uses

The 2019 RePower Humboldt strategic plan update addresses Humboldt County’s biomass management needs and how they relate to RCEA’s power portfolio. Humboldt State University’s spring Environmental Resources Engineering capstone design project class focused on alternative biomass uses in support of these strategies. On Tuesday, August 11, three students shared their class’ findings on different energy and non-energy biomass uses during a webinar hosted by RCEA. The professors were Sintana Vergara and Tesfayohanes Yacob.

Biomass in Humboldt County

This Biomass in Humboldt County (PDF) document was prepared by Michael J Furniss, Climate and Forests Consultant to RCEA. The report includes a Brief  Summary of Workshops, Consultations, and Research.

RePower Humboldt / Comprehensive Action Plan for Energy Update

October 18, 2019, at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center in Eureka

Final workshop in the summer/fall 2019 series explores the role of regional forests and biomass in addressing climate change, and what strategies could be developed to support that role in Humboldt County. Our RePower Humboldt page captures the public comment that went into shaping our strategic plan update, including a focus on biomass. Please visit the RePower Humboldt Update page for information about recent public meetings, comments, RCEA’s responses to public comments, and more.

Panel (in seating order):

  • Michael Furniss – Moderator, Consultant to RCEA
  • Yana Valachovic – County Director and Forest Advisor, UC Extension
  • Kevin Fingerman – Assistant Professor, Energy & the Environment, Humboldt State University
  • Jason Davis – Deputy Air Pollution Control Officer, North Coast Unified Air Quality Management District
  • Richard Engel – Director Power Resources, Redwood Coast Energy Authority
  • Angie Lottes – Assistant Deputy Director for Climate & Energy, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
  • Dan Chandler – Member 350.org
  • Adam Steinbuck – Director, Fiber and Freight, Humboldt Redwoods Company, LLC

Facilitator: Ali Lee

Introduction: Matthew Marshall, Executive Director, Redwood Coast Energy Authority

Cove Hydroelectric

In September of 2019, RCEA signed a 15-year power purchase agreement with Snow Mountain Hydro for its Cove hydro project, an existing, seasonal, 5.6 MW run-of-the-river project in Shasta County.

CA map highlighting Shasta county

The facility is located on Hatchet Creek, a tributary to the Pit River located northeast of Redding in Shasta County. The project lies within the preferred northwest California area identified in RCEA’s February 2019 request for proposals (RFP) for long-term renewable energy contracts

RCEA began receiving the full power output of the project in March of 2020.  Small, low-impact hydro projects like Cove qualify as renewable energy under state standards.

This type of hydropower project does not impound the creek, there is no dam or weir to divert project water from the creek, and has minimal environmental impact.

Airport Solar Microgrid

Redwood Coast Energy Authority is partnering with the Schatz Energy Research Center (SERC) at Humboldt State University, PG&E, and the County of Humboldt to build a 7-acre, 2.25 MW solar array and battery energy storage system at the California Redwood Coast – Humboldt County Airport (ACV).

image of aerial view of airport microgrid
Aerial photo of the airport provided by SERC.

For a copy of the Notice of Availability and Draft Environmental Assessment, visit the Humboldt County webpage, under Project Documents in the menu on the right.

The County will house the airport microgrid, RCEA will own and operate the solar and battery systems, PG&E will operate the microgrid circuit, and SERC will be the prime contractor responsible for the project design and technology integration.

The microgrid will include:

  • 250 kW net metered system to offset daily electricity usage at the airport
  • 2 MW of wholesale power that will feed clean energy directly into the grid
  • 2 MW battery storage system providing 8MWh of energy storage
  • Microgrid controller providing the ability to “island” from the main grid so the airport and adjacent Coast Guard facility can run fully on solar and batteries if there is a regional power outage
  • Electric vehicle charging stations capable of demand response
  • Enough solar-generated electricity to power 430 households, and prevent the emission of ~880 metric tons of carbon dioxide

This project is being funded by a $5 million grant from the California Energy Commission’s EPIC Program, with $6 million in match funding from RCEA. This system will be the first multi-customer, front-of-the-meter microgrid in Pacific Gas & Electric’s area of service. Groundbreaking will begin spring of 2020 with the system expected to be fully operational in December of 2020.

ACV microgrid plan ariel photo
The yellow triangle in the lower right hand corner shows the planned location of the 7 acre, 2.25 MW capacity solar array at the California Redwood Coast - Humboldt County Airport (ACV).

How does it work?

On a typical day, some of the energy generated from the PV arrays will be stored onsite, some will be fed directly to the airport and offset electricity costs, and some will be sold on California’s wholesale energy market. The energy sold on the wholesale market will be timed to best support renewable energy on the grid. By storing power in the batteries, the microgrid will be able to provide clean energy when demand is highest and the sun has set.

During a power outage, the microgrid’s solar + battery storage system will maintain electricity indefinitely for the airport and adjacent Coast Guard Air Station. This will permit flights and rescue operations to continue across the county, even when the highways are closed.

Why a microgrid at the airport?

Although the ACV is known for being particularly foggy, it is actually a logical place for the planned solar array for a number of reasons.

  1. Airports have available land that cannot be developed for other uses.  Many other airports have chosen to add solar panels on their property, including the Sacramento, Denver, and Pittsburgh airports. Solar panels are designed to absorb light, and the array will be properly positioned and treated with a special coating to minimize glare and ensure pilot safety.
  2. Despite its gloomy reputation, the ACV site has higher annual sun exposure than anywhere in Germany, where solar is widely and successfully used.
image of aerial view of airport microgrid
Aerial photo of the airport provided by SERC.

Enhanced energy resiliency and emergency response

RCEA is dedicated to supporting locally produced, sustainable electricity projects that contribute to energy stability in Humboldt County. Our rural location on the beautiful redwood coast is one of our community’s iconic qualities, but it also makes us more vulnerable to power outages and isolation from the state’s electrical grid. This microgrid project will help stabilize power fluctuations during normal operation and provide a local power source for emergency response activities in the event that extreme weather, fires, or earthquakes should cause a regional outage.

The advent of large-scale solar on the grid has created a widespread problem of over-generation at midday, followed by the challenge of needing to ramp up non-solar generation quickly each evening as the sun sets and household loads increase. Pairing the microgrid’s battery storage with a solar microgrid helps solve this regional problem, provides increased functionality for the microgrid, and helps minimize long-term costs of the project for RCEA ratepayers.

As SERC stated in their February 2018 press release, “The Coast Guard Air Station Humboldt Bay provides search and rescue for 250 miles of rugged rural coastline, from the Mendocino-Sonoma County line to the California-Oregon border. Since roads into and out of Humboldt County are often closed by fires and slides, energy stability at the regional airport is crucial.”

This is one of four microgrids designed by the Schatz Center, and will be the largest in the county. The other three are at:

  1. The Blue Lake Rancheria’s main campus. It went live in 2017 and supports their site’s critical role in the community as a Red Cross Shelter facility.
  2. The Blue Lake Rancheria’s gas station and convenience store. This microgrid will be fully operational in summer 2019.
  3. Humboldt Transit Authority headquarters. This microgrid is in the design phase, and HTA is currently seeking funding for implementation.

For more information on the Schatz Center’s microgrids, visit their microgrid page. You can also go directly to their Airport Microgrid page.

Opportunity for PG&E to integrate new technology into the grid

The Airport project will be the first multi-customer microgrid in PG&E’s service territory. As PG&E and other utilities plan for a strong grid to meet California’s changing energy needs, the ability to smoothly integrate renewable energy and microgrid technology will become increasingly important. Some of the new technologies included in the microgrid will be: utility scale DC coupling of the battery and solar arrays, which buffers the grid from large swings in solar output and makes the solar power 100% dispatchable; an automated control system linked to the battery storage system that will discharge stored solar energy during the evening peak when solar output is typically dropping off; and remote monitoring and control of the microgrid circuit by PG&E from their distribution control center. PG&E will be able to test policies, tariff structures, and operating procedures for the microgrid and battery interconnection, which should help streamline future projects.

Articles and Press Releases

Sandrini Sol 1 Solar Park

RCEA completed a 15-year power purchase agreement on May 5, 2020 with EDP Renewables SA (EDPR) for 100 MW from the Sandrini Sol 1 Solar Park in Kern County, California. RCEA will purchase the full output the project which is expected to be operational in 2022.

Solar panels next to a desert sky

Under the power purchase agreement, RCEA will receive approximately 300,000 MWh of renewable electricity per year. This will initially meet approximately 45% of RCEA’s current load.

EDPR’s project was selected for a power purchase agreement based on their response to RCEA’s February 2019 request for proposals for long-term renewable energy contracts. This facility is an eligible producer under California’s Renewable Portfolio Standard. Download the Sandrini Sol 1 Solar Park press release (DOCX) to read more.

CA map highlighting Kern county

Offshore Wind Energy

Humboldt County has been featured in local, national and international news since 2018 as a potentially ideal location for offshore wind energy generation. RCEA, tasked with developing local renewable resources and energy-related economic advancement, has taken lead on coordinating the extensive planning and research process required for what could be California’s first floating offshore wind project. This is a 100-150 MW offshore wind project that would be located approximately 25 miles from Eureka around 600-1000m deep. While conversations with local fishermen, tribes, environmentalists, labor unions and government partners are ongoing, our community’s response has been supportive. RCEA is committed to advancing the responsible development of our offshore wind resource in a manner that maximizes benefits to the local community.

principle power offshore wind turbine

About the Project

For a summary of the facts and timeline of this process, please download this RCEA Offshore Wind Project fact sheet (PDF).
Turbines in the Barrow Offshore Wind project off Walney Island in the Irish Sea.

Why Offshore Wind?

  • The North Coast has a world class offshore wind resource
  • Offshore wind technology is now available to unlock its potential
  • Offshore wind diversifies the renewable portfolio needed to decarbonize California
  • Humboldt Bay is well suited to serve as a potential hub for a broader west-coast offshore wind industry

Redwood Coast Offshore Wind Project

  • 100-150 MW offshore wind project
  • ~25 miles from Eureka, 600-1000m depth

Project Principles

  • Provide competitively priced renewable energy to electric ratepayers
  • Prioritize stakeholder engagement, acceptance, actively identify and address issues of local concern
  • Responsible development of environmentally sound project
  • Maximize investment in local infrastructure to develop Humboldt Bay into an industry hub
RCEA BOEM lease area map

Project Site

Selected based on extensive stakeholder input and technical factors:

  • Existing uses: fishing and shipping
  • Wind resource
  • Wildlife and habitats
  • Technical constraints

   “The farther out the better”


Project Configuration

  • 5 to 15 turbines – (TBD based on final project and turbine sizing)
  • Anchored to seabed using synthetic mooring lines
  • Inter-array cables connecting turbines
  • Export cable to shore (exact landfall TBD)

For an overview of the design, watch this Principle Power, Inc. Windfloat video.

What is the Redwood Coast Offshore Wind consortium?

At the beginning of April, 2018 the RCEA Board of Directors selected partners for a public-private partnership to explore developing a wind farm off the coast of Humboldt County. The consortium, consisting of Principle Power Inc., EDPR Offshore North America LLC, Aker Solutions Inc., H. T. Harvey & Associates, and Herrera Environmental Consultants Inc, was selected from six highly qualified respondents after RCEA issued a Request for Qualifications in February.

RCEA and the consortium submitted an unsolicited lease application to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on September 12, 2018. Although that lease request was not granted, we are continuing with what will now be a competitive lease auction for the same area. The consortium is working closely with local stakeholders to minimize any potential impacts and maximize local community benefits. Once a lease has been approved, the work of researching and developing a plan will take years to complete and will be the product of extensive community collaboration.

The Project Partners

Principle Power logo, featuring a blue and green wind turbine

Principle Power is an innovative technology and services provider for the offshore deep water wind energy market. Principle Power’s mission is to make the WindFloat the most competitive, safe, reliable and environmentally friendly technology for deep-water offshore wind projects while enabling global offshore wind markets to reach their full potential.

Herrera Environmental Consultants logo

Herrera Environmental Consultants is a leading engineering and scientific consulting firm focused on restoration, water, and sustainable development. Herrera works to create economic vitality and community in a sustaining environment.

EDP Renewables logo

EDP Renewables is a leading, global renewable energy company devoted to value creation, innovation and sustainability. EDP Renewables develops, constructs, owns, and operates renewable electricity generation facilities in 14 countries.

Aker Solutions logo

The goal of AkerSolutions is to maximize recovery and efficiency of oil and gas assets, while using their expertise to develop the sustainable solutions of the future.

H.T. Harvey & Associates logo

The ecologists and professionals at H. T. Harvey & Associates deliver consulting services to public agencies, private entities, and nonprofit organizations. The mission of H. T. Harvey & Associates is to create ecologically sound solutions to complex natural resource challenges.

RCEA logo

RCEA works to develop and implement sustainable energy initiatives that reduce energy demand, increase energy efficiency, and advance the use of clean, efficient and renewable resources available in the region for the benefit of the Member agencies and their constituents.

For more on the partnerships and summary of the project, view the Times Standard article “RCEA announces partnership for offshore wind farm”.

The Process

floating turbine barge
floating wind turbine
turbine blades on the ground

What is the Call for Information?

  • Notice published in the Federal Register for formal public comment
  • Requests nominations of interest for leasing from project developers

Many of our community stakeholders submitted comments to:

  • Ensure that local offshore wind resources will be developed in a manner that aligns with our community’s preferences and also maximizes prioritizes local community benefits
  • Communicate the importance of direct community involvement and local stakeholder support as critical factors to offshore wind project viability ad success
  • Support Redwood Coast Offshore Wind project as right-sized project for local community and environment

Response to the Call for Information:

  • In response to the Call, BOEM announced on April 23, 2019 that they received 14 nominations from developers who identified specific portions of the call areas for which they wish to obtain a commercial lease for a wind energy project.
  • Visit BOEM’s website for a summary of the nominations.

To learn more about the history of offshore wind, how it works, and the steps BOEM takes to work with many stakeholders when planning offshore wind development, watch BOEM’s “Renewable Energy Whiteboard” video

boat in Eureka docs with the word Eureka on the side

What About the Fishing Communities?

The North Coast region is home to a commercial fishing industry that provides sustainably-caught seafood to our community and many others.  For many generations these commercial fisheries have provided a livelihood for local fishermen and their families, and it continues to be a key element of our region’s economy and local culture.

The Redwood Offshore Wind consortium recognizes that a viable commercial fishing industry is integral to the economy and culture of the North Coast and that the development of offshore wind energy will permanently impact the commercial fishing industry economically and culturally. They recognize that such development should be pursued in a manner that minimizes and mitigates impacts to fishing so that both endeavors can sustainably coexist for the benefit of our community. Both the consortium and the Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association  agree to cooperate and work together in good faith for the purpose of ensuring that the efforts of RCEA and its project partners to develop a floating offshore wind energy project off the coast of Humboldt County proceed in a way that effectively identifies, avoids, minimizes, and mitigates impacts to the commercial fishing industry to the greatest extent possible.

Memo of Understanding  with the Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association and Redwood Coast Offshore Wind

Fishing Community Sustainability Plans – Fishing community sustainability planning for Eureka and Shelter Cove

  • Although the number of registered commercial fishing boats in the Humboldt Bay area has declined from approximately 500 in the 1950s to approximately 220 in 2004, the bay is still an important port for commercial fishing.
  • More than 500 vessels from other West Coast ports use the bay’s facilities annually. The commercial fishing fleet is based at Woodley Island Marina, the City of Eureka Marina, and to a lesser extent, the private King Salmon Marina (HBHRCD 2007)
  • Commercial crab fishing is highly active in nearshore waters off Eureka and makes up the overwhelming majority of Eureka commercial landings and ex-vessel revenue between 1992 and 2014 (Hackett et al. 2017).
  • Groundfish trawl fisheries occur at greater depths, generally in water depths less than 600 fathoms (1100 meters), with an average depth of <300 fathoms (550 meters) (Sommers et al. 2016).
  • Since 1981, total pounds of all fish landed in Eureka has dropped from a high in 1981 of 36.9 million pounds to on average 1.9 million pounds between 2001 and 2007; most of the decline was due to a decrease in groundfish landings (Pomeroy et al. 2010).

See page 33 of our lease application for Northern California Commercial and Recreational Fisheries, Gear Types, and Locations

Articles:

Additional Information and Resources

Does RCEA’s long-term contract for 100 MW of solar energy from the Sandrini Sol 1 project preclude RCEA contracting for offshore wind when that becomes available?

RCEA’s goal is to have a diversified power mix, and this long-term solar power purchase agreement is an ideal complement to offshore wind in a number of ways. The solar contract’s price per unit of energy is lower than we expect offshore wind to cost, but offshore wind’s time-of-day production better matches our customer load shape. In addition, the location of the solar project allows it to avoid the transmission access challenge that large-scale renewable energy generation sited in Humboldt County faces, due to our remoteness from the state’s main transmission corridors.

The Sandrini contract helps us meet our near-term SB350 compliance targets, which require us to secure long-term renewable portfolio standard contracts, and it does so in a very cost-effective way. We could not have waited for offshore wind for this purpose, given the long development timeline. About half of RCEA’s portfolio remains open for long-term contracts.

It will also be critical for there to be more than one off-taker for a large-scale offshore wind industry to be successful. Hopefully, other Community Choice Energy programs across the state can add offshore wind to their portfolios as well.

News Articles

  • Aker Solutions, Cognite Awarded Digital Offshore Grant – Aker Solutions, one of RCEA’s offshore wind consortium partners, was awarded a $2 million grant in support of offshore floating wind farms and minimizing their impact on the environment. April 2020.
  • My Word: For North Coast economic recovery, look to offshore wind. April 2020.
  • Windpower Engineering and Development  –  Offshore wind is (finally) coming to America. RCEA is #4 out of the 8 most significant steps forward for offshore wind in 2018. December 17, 2018.
  • NY Times – “Something New May Be Rising Off California Coast: Wind Farms”. October 19, 2018.
  • North Coast Journal – “Facing the Wind”. A fisherman’s take on offshore wind, by Ken Bates and Linda Hilderbrand. October 18, 2018.
  • San Diego Union Tribune – “Offshore wind farms coming to California — but the Navy says no to large sections of the coast.” May 6, 2018.
  • Tina Casey / Clean Technica – “Don’t Mess With California: Floating Offshore Wind Farm Shapes Up As Trump Clamps Down.” April 6, 2018.
  • Kallanish Energy – “First floating U.S. wind farm may be built off California.” April 6, 2018.
  • Kuow – “California Takes Up Ocean Wind Energy After Oregon Project Fails.” April 4, 2018.
  • Reuters – “Group pursuing floating wind farm off California coast.” April 3, 2018.
  • North Coast Journal –  “In the Wind” cover feature article on Offshore Wind in Humboldt County. February 21, 2018.

Interviews, Webinars, and Audio

  • Webinar series: Exploring the Feasibility of Offshore Wind Energy for the CA North Coast. The Schatz Center hosted a series of five webinar workshops on the feasibility of offshore wind energy development on California’s north coast. In each webinar, they shared topical findings from their recently conducted studies. After each presentation, there was a moderated panel discussion. Webinar participants were then invited to share their insights, questions, and perspectives. September and October 2020.
  • Webinar: Potential Effects of Offshore Renewable Energy: Knowledge and Resources – Recorded April 15, 2020. Hosted by Pacific Ocean Energy Trust with presentation by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. April 2020
  • Interview: Astrid Skarheim Onsum, SVP, Head of Wind, Aker Solutions. Her view on the path ahead and the growing role and promising future of ‘floating wind.’ April 2019.
  • Explore North Coast and the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center  – Explore North Coast and the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center will present a talk in their lecture series Monday featuring Matthew Marshall, executive director of Redwood Coast Energy Authority. His presentation will focus on the potential of an offshore wind energy project. The lecture is scheduled from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center, 921, Waterfront Drive. Admission is free. September 10, 2018.
  • KHSU Thursday Night Talk – TNT explored the Redwood Coast Energy Authority’s proposal to put a floating offshore wind farm off Humboldt’s coast. The proposal, which would place floating wind turbines ~20-24 miles offcoast, would generate enough power to light all of Humboldt. Guests Lori Biodini of the Redwood Coast Energy Authority and Jen Kalt of Humboldt Baykeeper discussed the proposal and potential environmental impacts, both positive and negative, with host Tom Wheeler. July 2018.
  • Pacific Ocean Energy Trust (POET) – Marine Renewable Energy Environmental Regulatory Workshop Report: Moving to Better Information and Risk Retirement
  • Jefferson Public Exchange  – “North Coast Eyes Offshore Wind Farm,” interview with Lori Biondini of RCEA, Jason Busch of the Pacific Ocean Energy Trust, and Geoffrey Riley. April 24, 2018.
  • California Energy Commission – Webinar on Offshore Renewable Energy (audio recording). March 12, 2018.
  • KHSU EcoNews Report – Interview with Matthew Marshall and Jen Kalt. February 22, 2018.
  • Sustainable Futures Speaker Series – “Do Wind Turbines Make Good Neighbors?” Founder’s Hall 118, at Humboldt State University. Presentation by Joseph Rand, Research Affiliate, Electricity Markets & Policy Group at Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Video archive will be available soon from the HSU Library. February 22, 2018.

Hearings

Senator McGuire hosted a Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture an offshore wind energy hearing on May 3, 2019 at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center in Eureka.

  • California’s Fisheries and Wildlife – Can they co-exist with Offshore Wind Energy Development?
  •  Access Humboldt Channel 11 air date/times:
    Play Date / Time                          Channel

5/11/19  Sat               3:30 pm  AH 11
5/12/19  Sun              9:30 am  AH 11
5/13/19  Mon              6:30 pm  AH 11
5/14/19  Tue              5:30 am  AH 11
5/18/19  Sat               9:30 am  AH 11
5/19/19  Sun              8:30 pm  AH 11

Technical Reports

Online Resources

  • United States Annual Average Wind Speeds. From the National Renewable Energy Lab
  • Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Responsible for issuing leases for offshore wind energy projects in federal waters, the mission of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is to manage development of U.S. Outer Continental Shelf energy and mineral resources in an environmentally and economically responsible way.
  • California Offshore Wind Energy Gateway. A joint project of BOEM, the CA Public Utilities Commission, and the CA Energy Commission, the Offshore Renewable Wind Energy Gateway assembles geospatial information on ocean wind resources, ecological and natural resources, ocean commercial and recreational uses and community values. This information will help identify areas off California that are potentially suitable for wind energy generation.
  • The Schatz Center’s new offshore wind energy webpage highlights their studies’ efforts related to potential offshore wind energy development on the northern California coast. Studies include research funded by the Ocean Protection Council, BOEM, the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research and the California Energy Commission’s (CEC) Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC). The site also includes information on a new and upcoming Seabird 3D study now underway, with results anticipated in summer, 2021.

RCEA Mission and Background Information

Relating to the local development of floating offshore wind energy, RCEA’s 2003 Joint Powers Agreement includes specific goals to:

  • Lead, coordinate and integrate regional efforts that advance secure, sustainable, clean and affordable energy resources.
  • Support research, development, demonstration, innovation, and commercialization of sustainable energy technologies by public and private entities operating in Humboldt County.

The Humboldt County General Plan designates RCEA as the regional energy authority with the responsibility to coordinate and facilitate countywide strategic energy planning and implementation. In 2012, RCEA adopted the Humboldt County Comprehensive Action Plan for Energy (CAPE), which is one of RCEA’s primary guiding documents.  The CAPE established specific strategic action items relevant to the development of the region’s offshore wind energy resources, including:

  • Large-Scale Wind Energy: Work with utilities and private companies to develop off-shore wind energy demonstration projects.
  • Emerging Energy Technologies: Support the development of emerging energy technology from local innovators and inventors, as well as from non-local sources.
  • Business Development: Collaborate with local economic development entities to attract technology developers, manufacturers, and energy service providers to locate operations in the County when appropriate.
  • Proactive Development Support: Collaborate with local jurisdictions to identify and pre-assess locations and facilities that could appropriately support energy generation projects and/or other energy-related business ventures.
  • Local Energy Investment: Work with local economic development entities and financial institutions to develop programs and resources that facilitate local community investment in and/or ownership of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects.

Finalized in 2014, the RePower Humboldt Strategic Plan (a community-wide effort to define a vision and Strategic Plan for achieving energy independence and energy security in Humboldt County) identifies “pursuing opportunities for off-shore wind energy research, development, and demonstration” as an important objective, noting that Humboldt County is uniquely positioned to play a critical role in the early adoption of offshore wind energy resources in California and that local harbor infrastructure can support development of these technologies

Person holding an umbrella being blown backwards next to a windy ocean

Onshore Wind Energy

In February 2019, RCEA issued a solicitation for long-term renewable energy power purchase agreements (PPAs). RCEA expressed a preference for local projects built in Humboldt County. Terra-Gen submitted an offer for power from its proposed Humboldt Wind project; of 40 offers received from 13 companies, this was the only offer received by RCEA for a project to be built in Humboldt County. In late 2019, the County’s Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors rejected Terra-Gen’s application for a conditional use permit. Terra-Gen is no longer pursuing development of the project. RCEA will continue to seek opportunities for local onshore wind development that meets the community’s standards.

Tucannon Wind Farm

There are very few sites that have high enough average year-round wind speeds to justify development of a project. The map below shows locations deemed to have an adequate wind resource of Class 5 or higher wind speeds, per map data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (https://www.nrel.gov/gis/data-wind.html). Using these data and excluding sites on public land, such as the King Range National Conservation Area, slightly less than 1% of Humboldt County’s land area is considered technically suitable for wind energy development.

Humboldt Onshore Wind Map

Frequently Asked Questions & RCEA staff responses to public comments

The following are answers to some questions we have heard from community members about wind energy in general, the Humboldt Wind project, and RCEA’s interest in buying power from this project.

It takes a lot of manufacturing, transporting, and assembly to build a big wind project. Do these projects really reduce carbon emissions?

Response: Natural gas power plants still provide about one-third of California’s electricity.[1] Building new renewable energy facilities directly enables retirement of the state’s aging natural gas-fired plants. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, natural gas-burning power plants emit on average 465 grams of CO2 for every kWh of energy generated. In contrast, the lifecycle carbon emissions attributable to wind projects average just 11 g CO2/kWh.[2] This is similar to or less than lifecycle emissions associated with other forms of renewable energy.

[1] https://www.energy.ca.gov/almanac/electricity_data/total_system_power.html

[2] https://www.factcheck.org/2018/03/wind-energys-carbon-footprint/

Additional information on the Life-Cycle Global Warming Emissions


Isn’t RCEA developing an offshore wind project? Why not just wait for that instead of building the onshore wind project?

Response: RCEA is an enthusiastic partner in developing wind energy using floating offshore platforms. This is an abundant resource on the North Coast; however, permitting and development of this project is expected to take five years or more and will not be available in time to help us meet our long-term contract requirements in the initial years. As a first-of-its kind project in North America, it is expected to undergo close regulatory scrutiny and will almost certainly be more expensive than mature onshore wind technology. And as a reminder that no energy technology, renewable or otherwise, is without impacts, the local fishing community has already voiced concerns about offshore wind that will need to be addressed. RCEA considers it prudent to include local onshore wind in our near-term portfolio.


What do people who live near existing wind projects think of them?

Response: An important resource for answering this question is the National Survey of Attitudes of Wind Power Project Neighbors. As explained on the Survey’s website, “In 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy funded Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) to lead a 4-year project collecting data from a broad-based and representative sample of individuals living near U.S. wind power projects. The aim was to widen the understanding of how U.S. communities are reacting to the deployment of wind turbines, and to provide insights to those communities considering wind projects.” Among other things, the survey of over 1,700 residents located within five miles of a wind project in 24 different states found that 57% of these residents had positive or very positive attitudes about the project, while only 8% had negative or very negative attitudes. The survey asked residents how they perceived the fairness of the wind project planning process, and to what extent they were annoyed by sound from the wind turbines or the change to their local landscape. The 12-page summary of the Survey provides key insights about wind projects’ impacts on nearby residents.


Will all the energy generated by future onshore wind projects be exported out of the area?

Response: No, the electricity from onshore wind farms would serve our local demand, both in a contractual and physical sense. Contractually, RCEA will negotiate with developers of local wind projects to purchase their output under  long-term power purchase agreements. Physically, the electrons generated by the wind facility would flow toward the nearest connected loads.


Will the electricity from local wind projects occupy all the existing transmission line capacity on the grid, thus reducing the possibility of offshore development?

Response: Onshore wind projects will not preclude development of the offshore wind project, and realistically, both resources are needed for the state to meet its renewable energy targets. RCEA is currently engaging the CAISO on the feasibility of interconnecting the Redwood Coast Offshore Wind project. The offshore wind project may require transmission upgrades with or without the presence of an existing onshore wind facility, which the results of the study will determine.


The greenhouse gas emissions from the materials and construction of wind projects defeat the purpose of the wind farms.

Response: As with construction of any project, including other renewable energy projects, there are lifecycle GHG emissions associated with the production and transportation of materials, installation, and maintenance and decommissioning of a wind power system. However, because the wind electricity would displace that which we would normally get from a largely fossil fueled grid, the project’s “carbon debt” would be paid back within the first few years of being brought online, depending on the carbon intensity of the grid at the time. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has published data on the life cycle carbon intensity of wind projects nationally, which they report is lower than the carbon intensity from solar, natural gas, and coal electricity.


Wind farms only last 20 years, and then we will have the waste to deal with after that.

Response: According to a recent study, wind project lifetimes have been increasing since the early 2000s and currently average around 30 years. The cost of decommissioning the wind farm is the responsibility of the project owner, not of the power purchaser or the community where the project is hosted. After the project’s lifetime is over, there is also the possibility that the plant could be repowered by replacing the turbines with newer, higher performance units, as is already being done with wind projects elsewhere in California.


We should import electricity from wind farms elsewhere where impacts are already realized, instead of developing a local wind project.

Response: With the last nuclear power plant in California scheduled to shut down in five years and the state’s aggressive renewable energy targets under SB 100, we need a swath of new large-scale resources to be built very soon. Our contacts in the wind industry tell us that Humboldt is one of the last economically feasible sites in California to build a new wind facility. Also, RCEA’s Board of Directors has set a goal of procuring 100% local renewable electricity by 2030, which we cannot meet with imported wind energy. In addition to our Board’s goals, RCEA is subject to state requirements for minimum renewable energy content and long-term contracting for renewable power- see our Power Procurement page for more details.


Does RCEA consider the use of the potent greenhouse gas sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) in wind turbines as a factor in its power procurement decisions?

Response: RCEA has only recently begun hearing of this concern from community members and will look into the issue as it makes decisions related to wind energy procurement.

RePower Humboldt

Our RePower Humboldt page captures the public comment that went into shaping our strategic plan update, including a focus on wind energy generation. Please visit the RePower Humboldt Update page for information about recent public meetings, comments, RCEA’s responses to public comments, and more.

Feed In Tariff

RCEA is fostering local renewable energy projects through a Feed-In Tariff Program. RCEA is offering standardized 20-year fixed-price contracts for new renewable energy projects under one MW in Humboldt County. To read more, please visit the Feed-In Tariff page.

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633 3rd Street

Eureka, CA 95501

(707) 269-1700

info@RedwoodEnergy.org

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