Eureka, CA — New legislation just signed into law on Thursday by Gov. Gavin Newsom will significantly advance the development of an offshore wind power industry on the West Coast, especially in Humboldt County, say developers of a proposed local project and the area’s Community Choice Aggregator (CCA).
The legislation, AB 525, which was approved nearly unanimously by the California Legislature earlier this month, directs California state agencies to develop a strategic plan to facilitate the development of offshore wind on a large scale over the next two decades.
California law states that, by 2045, 100 percent of electricity consumed in California must come from carbon-free sources. One study has suggested offshore wind has the potential to generate electricity in an amount equal to 150 percent of California’s electricity usage in 2019. Further, offshore wind is the perfect complement to solar generation in California as ocean winds pick up in the early evening when the sun begins to set.
“This new law shows California is now fully committed to developing an offshore wind industry that can create local jobs, advance towards a carbon-free electric system, and address the threat of climate change,” said Tyler Studds, chief executive officer of Redwood Coast Offshore Wind (ROW).
ROW is a 50-50 joint venture between two international offshore wind developers, Ocean Winds and Aker Offshore Wind, in partnership with the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA). RCEA is a CCA formed by nine local government entities with a mandate to procure clean and renewable power for Humboldt County electricity customers.
Earlier this year, Newsom and the Biden administration announced they expect to hold an auction in 2022 for leases off both the Humboldt Coast and the Central Coast near Morro Bay. These areas combined could produce 4.6 GW of offshore wind energy and power 1.6 million California homes.
“This legislation and the support it received underscores the wisdom of RCEA engaging early to work toward the responsible development of our local offshore wind resource,” said Matthew Marshall, executive director of RCEA. “We are taking a community-based approach to developing Humboldt County’s offshore wind resource that prioritizes community values, protecting the environment, and developing strategies to avoid or mitigate impacts to the fishing community and local Tribes, while creating jobs and economic development.” ROW has already actively engaged a host of local stakeholders, including fisheries, labor, and Tribal governments to understand their concerns and explore solutions.
Deploying wind turbines offshore, where they will be placed on floating platforms so they can operate in deep water, will require significant investments and upgrades to the Port of Humboldt Bay that can also benefit other port users. Once the port is upgraded and as the industry develops, other parts of the offshore wind supply chain could locate facilities in Humboldt County and elsewhere in California. In July, the Humboldt Bay Harbor and Recreation District submitted a grant application to the U.S. Department of Transportation Port Infrastructure Development Program to fund the development of a Humboldt Bay Offshore Wind and Heavy Lift Marine Terminal.
“This law provides much-needed certainty around the future of offshore wind in California and will spur significant upgrades in port and grid infrastructure,” said Jonah Margulis, senior vice president of US operations for Aker Offshore Wind. “We look forward to creating a robust, sustainable offshore wind industry in Northern California that will serve the community with reliable, clean energy and well-paying jobs for decades to come.”