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Stakeholders discuss the future of offshore wind energy in Morro Bay

Congressman Salud Carbajal hosted the Power in the Pacific: Unlocking Offshore Wind Energy for the American Westfield field hearing
Posted at 7:31 PM, Sep 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-08 22:37:10-04

Discussions continue regarding the construction of an offshore wind power plant near the coast of Morro Bay.

Congressman Salud Carbajal hosted the Power in the Pacific: Unlocking Offshore Wind Energy for the American Westfield field hearing at the Morro Bay Community Center with members of the house committee on natural resources.

Congressman Alan Lowenthal moderated the hearing as the chair of the Energy and Mineral Resources subcommittee.

“It is obviously an amazing attempt by the federal and state legislation and local governments to move off of fossil fuels and moving towards generating electricity,” said Jeffrey Heller, a Morro Bay City Councilmember. “The wind power option is very exciting, it will obviously have an impact on Morro Bay; some positive and some not so positive with respect to the fishing industry and we are concerned about the negative impacts there.”

The offshore wind farm in question would be a one of a kind 376 square mile facility just 20 miles off the coast.

“I will say that the goal is to, once we have the lease-sale later this year, have these projects in the water by 2030,” said Doug Boren, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s Pacific Regional Director.

A lease sale would also include another plant in Humboldt. These are wind projects supported by the Biden Administration.

State stakeholders talked about California's goal of pursuing clean energy, and the incentives they are planning to offer.

“A recommendation for BOEM to offer the opportunity for a 50% bidding credit that would be comprised of 20% for supply chain, 5% to prepare a diverse, skilled and trained workforce in California to deploy floating offshore wind, 10% for community benefits for lease area users, 10% for community agreements with onshore communities and 5% for environmental monitoring and adaptive management,” explained Kourtney Vaccaro, California Energy Commissioner.

In attendance were state representatives, San Luis Obispo County supervisors, fishermen and the Northern Chumash Tribal Council. The goal was to listen to the benefits and concerns of wind energy.

San Luis Obispo County Supervisor Dawn Ortiz-Legg spoke about the potential for job opportunities, and how they are planning to collaborate with colleagues.

“We are just preparing in terms of our institutions Cal Poly, Cuesta College talking about their educational goals as early as grade schoolers,” explained Ortiz-Legg.

REACH Central Coast shared some of their findings regarding a report they did with Cal Poly about the economic impact of the wind farm. The full report will be shared mid-fall.

“Up to 650 good paying jobs for this region, 4-3 GW wind farm, which is roughly the equivalent to the Morro Bay wind energy is as well as over 2,000 jobs over a five-year period for the build-out of the waterfront infrastructure,” said Josh Boswell, Reach Central Coast’s vice-president for Economic Development.

In one of the panels, the Morro Bay Commercial Fishermen’s Organization Vice-president Jeremiah O’Brien warned about the impact on the fishing industry as we know it.

“As we lose more areas over time coupled with the areas that we have already lost to environmental and governmental restrictions, we will be moving our fishermen out further and further into a shrinking ocean meaning that there will be a loss of income,” added O’Brien.

Congressman Carbajal brought up the idea of having an advisory committee with stakeholders, so everyone remains informed every step of the way as this wind project moves forward.

An idea that the Northern Chumash Tribal Council Chairwoman Violet Sage Walker supports.

“We always need the assurance that not only will we advance our marine life protection, and the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary, but also that wind farm energy and wind farm energy and wind farm leases will partner and support our national marine sanctuary,” added Sage-Walker.

The Department of Defense expressed concerns over national security.

“We want to coordinate while we build these because we will be doing activities possibly in the area, and we want to make sure we understand where they are, when they are, so we can coordinate activities with them,” said Ron Tickle, the Department of Defense’s Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Real Property. “We will be seeking, I believe, curtailment hours, which is when we are doing certain activities that possibly our radars can’t accommodate, we will be asking for the wind turbines to shut down.”

Throughout the four-hour hearing, there were mentions of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant as a source of clean energy.

“As we sort of transition, it could align perfectly with 5 more years of Diablo could be when we get an offshore site, the turbines spinning and putting electricity to the grid,” said assemblyman Jordan Cunningham.

There are still many moving pieces, but those in attendance said this was a good learning opportunity to make sure the local community is involved.

It is important to disclose that Congressman Salud Carbajal is running for reelection in November.