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Navy Says 'No' to Some CA Offshore Wind Plans

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

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While plans for wind farms off the coast of California continue to move forward, the U.S. Navy may stand in the way of some development after releasing a map indicating areas where arrays would interfere with its operations.

The Navy's say isn't final, however: according to The San Diego Union-Tribune, federal and state officials, as well as one member of Congress and a number of wind energy companies, are working with the Department of Defense toward a more flexible plan to accommodate energy development and military concerns.

CA Offshore Wind Map

Limitations sought by the Navy, paired with the difficulties stemming from natural coastal features and the state and federal boundaries in the area, render plans to generate nearly a terrawatt of electricity offshore for the state complex.

After an unsolicited lease request for a floating wind farm two years ago from Trident Winds, and interest expressed by Norwegian energy giant Statoil, Gov. Jerry Brown requested that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management investigate offshore wind opportunities for California.

© / MR1805

Plans for windfarms off the coast of California are moving forward, but the United States Navy has released a map of what waters along the coast are appropriate for windfarms, placing a guideline on where turbines can be build. The military does not have the final say in the matter, however.

Last summer, the Navy released a map analyzing the coast using the colors of a traffic light to indicate development opportunities: green for no restrictions, yellow for site-specific stipulations and red where the military wants no windfarms. Additionally, blue areas were marked for National Marine Sanctuaries.

“Information provided by BOEM to the Department of Defense indicates that the unsolicited offshore wind proposal from Trident is for an area within Department of the Navy ‘wind exclusion’ areas off the coast of Central California,” said Navy spokesman Lieutenant Ben Anderson in early January. “These ‘wind exclusion’ areas are locations on the outer continental shelf where wind energy development will adversely impact Navy and/or Marine Corps testing, training and operational activities.”

The southern tip of the Mexico border all the way to Big Sur was marked as a no-go zone; building in areas marked red conflict with the needs of the military and its operations in that area. Green areas are marked  north of Mendocino. An update to the map in February led to further restrictions.

The coast of southern California is marked red due to the Point Mugu Sea Range north of Los Angeles and the Southern California Range Complex, which totals 120,000 square miles of sea-space for maintaining combat forces. The area is also used by the Marine Corps, Air Force and  Army.

Along the Coast

Moving up north, along the coast, winds are more constant, making these areas more appealing for wind farm development.

“We have a world-class wind resource,” said Lori Biondini, director of business development and planning for the Redwood Coast Energy Authority. “We have a way, way better wind resource up here than they do in Southern California.”

Off the Humboldt County coast, wind speeds exceed 22 mph. The Navy’s update to the map changed the area’s demarcation from green to yellow, but development is still feasible, according to reports. The North American Aerospace Defense Command requested more information on the turbines—which would stand 700 to 900 feet tall—to make sure that they did not interfere with long-range radar.

If the Trident Winds project, off Point Estero in central California, is approved, it would be six times more powerful than what is planned for Humboldt Bay. Despite concerns from the Navy regarding planning, Trident Winds still hopes that development will go online in 2025.

At the end of the day, the Navy—or the Department of Defense—does not have the ability to determine which offshore projects are constructed; that power lies with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

According to the Tribune, the global offshore wind energy market was valued at $20.3 billion in 2016 and is expected to reach $57.2 billion in 2022.


Tagged categories: Government; Infrastructure; Offshore; Wind Towers

Comment from peter gibson, (5/8/2018, 11:18 AM)

Why should private business deface the oceans and earth.Should not be allowed. Nobody wants to see those ugly things. A total ban...please.

Comment from John Ducote, (5/8/2018, 4:32 PM)

Peter, maybe it is because we all need energy? What about offshore (or onshore) oil rigs, coal mines, nuclear reactors, hydroelectric dams, fracking operations, etc?

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (5/9/2018, 11:49 AM)

John, don't discount nuclear too quickly. We've been using one general format / style of reactor since the 50's because of their basic similarities and co-development with nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, this style of main reactor are far more prone to accidents from run-away reactions (remember, they share some fundamentals with nuclear bombs) and poor fuel utilization rates (i.e. a lot of radioactive waste fuel is left over). There are reactor designs from the 50's that are being re-examined and developed to see if they can be scaled up that have a low likelihood of run-away reactions (i.e. if you lose power, like at Fukushima, the reaction stops) and far, far better fuel utilization (i.e. almost no radioactive waste). Wind, solar, tidal and geothermal energy sources are still in their infancy (with some pretty nasty cradle-to-grave issues to deal with), so let's be mindful that existing energy sources are still required until those technologies (including the potentially much better versions of nuclear) are properly matured.

Comment from John Ducote, (5/9/2018, 12:03 PM)

True Michael, nuclear cannot be discounted, particualry with the newer modular design coming out. My point to Peter was that ALL forms of energy "deface the oceans and earth" to some extent, and unless we want to go back to the stone age it is something we will have to accept within reason. I have seen the extensive offshore wind farms off Copenhagen and they really are not at all objectional to look at. Certainly no worse than offshore oil rigs, and they won't contaminate hundreds of miles of coastline if they blow.

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (5/10/2018, 10:56 AM)

Fair enough, John. We just need to make sure that for offshore windfarms that the siting is very well assessed. We don't want issues for shore birds or marine habitat and we certainly cannot create a navigational hazard for marine vessels. No matter what we do to satisfy our energy demands, we need to do it with minimal impacts to the surrounding environment.

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