Suitable ports for offshore wind require deep and sheltered harbors with high-quality port infrastructure and facilities, large areas of vacant land for manufacturing and assembly purposes, and no restrictions for ship access.
Only a few ports in California can offer these features in a limited capacity, requiring important investments in port infrastructure development. Same as transmission infrastructure, expanding the existing port capacity in California will require a detailed analysis of the industry needs to support each of the wind energy areas and at the same time strive for an expedited planning and permitting process.
Many National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration-designated biologically important areas and important bird areas exist along the California coast.
Even though the environmental effects from onshore- and offshore-associated components necessary to support offshore wind generation will primarily be short-term — and will mostly affect the wind energy areas and interconnection sites — offshore wind-related operations and maintenance activities will also pose some long-term concerns.
Risks to existing species may include collision and habitat displacement. Moreover, improvements to transmission infrastructure, which would be required to sustain a utility-scale transmission, would also present long-term challenges for both terrestrial and marine habitats.
To ensure proper ecological protection, offshore wind development needs to be based on informed siting and efficient routing of interconnection cables, which will reduce risks for resource fragmentation and potential effects such as electric and magnetic fields, thermal dissipation and other physical disturbance resulting from new infrastructure.
Fisheries and Cultural Resources
The Morro Bay Wind Energy Area overlaps with essential fish habitats and designated conservation areas, while the Humboldt Wind Energy Area overlaps with essential fish habitat designations. Impacts on marine wildlife could potentially – and adversely – affect California’s fishing industry, as well as marine and coastal areas that California Native American Tribes have used to support their cultural, spiritual, ceremonial and/or traditional rights.
Early engagement and agreements with key stakeholders will be necessary to be achieved at both programmatic and project levels to ensure the concerns from key stakeholders, such as fisheries and Native American organizations, are considered in effective and equitable decision-making.
Alignment on a comprehensive mitigation program approach for economic and cultural marine and coastal uses will be crucial to ensure sustainable offshore wind development along the northern and central coasts of California.
Supply Chain Development
Despite being the state with the fourth largest wind power potential, California has a very limited in-state supply chain to support construction of the main generating components for large wind facilities. To achieve the anticipated offshore wind capacity in California’s over the next two decades, major investments in developing in-country and in-state supply capacity will be necessary.
The expected scale of development expected by 2030 and 2045 has the potential to progressively increase market demand of wind generation equipment in the state, and the potential for major turbine manufacturers to invest and establish local production sites in California.
Achieving the goal of integrating 10 gigawatts of offshore wind energy into the California grid by 2045 will require a vast coordinated approach for effective planning, siting, design, interconnection, port infrastructure support and supply chain development.
Coordination will not only depend on federal, state and local agencies, but also from the active involvement of key stakeholders such as the industry organizations, local communities, workforce associations, commercial and artisanal fisheries groups, California Native American organizations, and research and development institutions.
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