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Renewed interest in offshore wind energy could bring a site to the Central Coast

offshore wind.PNG
Posted at 11:49 PM, Mar 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 02:49:44-04

A renewed interest in wind energy is coming from the Biden administration, making an offshore wind farm on the Central Coast a possibility once again.

This week, the Biden administration released a multi-layer plan to expand offshore wind energy production in the U.S., which includes investments in port infrastructures and $3 billion in loans for the offshore industry.

"The President recognizes that a thriving offshore wind industry will drive new jobs and economic opportunity up and down the Atlantic coast, in the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific waters," White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, said.

Mayor of Morro Bay John Headding says this change in narrative has allowed for the removal of some of the roadblocks in the way of an offshore wind turbine project on the Central Coast.

"We've been talking about this and trying to work through the issues for over five years, so I'm extremely excited not only for the state and the industry — but for Morro Bay, economically, it will be something that will be fairly significant," Headding said.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management identified an area 20-25 miles off the coast of Morro Bay as one of two spots in California that would be ideal for this type of energy production site.

"[That's] because the winds out there are blowing all the time and there is a "shovel ready," as I call it, connection to the grid through the Morro Bay Power Plant," Headding explained.

Several stakeholders are still trying to pinpoint an exact location, as a previous site chosen on the Central Coast would have impeded Naval activity.

"We’re in the process of finding a suitable region that marries the energy needs of our state with the national security uses of the region, including military testing and training operations. I’m heartened the Biden administration is interested in expanding this burgeoning industry, which will create good-paying clean energy jobs while bringing us closer to a renewable energy future, and I will continue working to bring offshore wind opportunities to the Central Coast," Congressman Salud Carbajal said.

Headding says the output of energy from the turbines is expected to produce more energy than Diablo Canyon.

But what does this mean for those who make a living out on the water? Headding says a company that had previously bid on the project had an agreement with local fishing groups, but that could change now that bids for the site will go up again.

"It would behoove any company that would enter into the bidding process to discuss with the local fishing industry possible mitigation of impacts for developing the wind farm," Headding said.

A spokesperson for Representative Carbajal's office says:

Rep. Carbajal will continue working with companies and federal agencies to ensure we mitigate impacts to local fisherman, as well as other ocean stakeholders.

The mayor says there are 11 companies who have submitted paperwork to bid on the area identified by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for an offshore site on the Central Coast.

The auction process for the bids could begin later this year.

Headding says the excess energy produced by the turbines could potentially be stored at the proposed battery energy storage plant that looks to break ground at the site of the former Morro Bay Power Plant next year.