Renewable energy developers are taking a second chance on an ocean wind project off the West Coast. They’re planning a floating array of wind turbines in Northern California.
The effort comes two years after a similar project failed to gain traction in Southern Oregon. Efforts to find a buyer for the power – at an estimated four times the going rate – failed.
Lori Biondini of the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, the local agency organizing the new project near Eureka, California, said they’re working to solve the “buyer” problem up front.
“Bringing us in at the beginning ensures that we will all benefit from the project. So we would be an off-taker. We also have interest from others … who would be interested in the power,” Biondini said.
Floating wind technology is improving and starting to come down in price. For example, Biondini said developers are able to put larger turbines on the platforms, allowing for greater energy production per structure.
The project could also be spurred by California’s renewable energy goals, which are more aggressive than its neighbors to the north.
“I would be disingenuous if I said that Oregon didn’t miss out in some way. Coos Bay has a tremendous opportunity. It’s a deep water port. It’s an economically depressed area looking for new opportunities,” said Jason Busch of the Pacific Ocean Energy Trust.
Busch said the attributes that made Southern Oregon an ideal spot haven’t really changed – and coastal communities there may not have totally missed their chance. Like most renewable energy, offshore wind is expected to become more competitive, and other developers are beginning to pursue projects.
The Eureka project is still in the early stages, but initial plans are to deploy 10-15 floating turbines about 20 miles off shore in federal waters. The goal is to produce between 100 and 150 megawatts of power targeted for use primarily in Humboldt County.
Several companies are involved in the project, including Principle Power, Inc., which was the lead on the defunct Oregon project.
The next phase for the new venture is to apply for siting permits with federal regulators. Project development is expected to take five to seven years.