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California Starting Environmental Assessment for Offshore Wind Site

California environmental assessment proceeding for offshore wind project
Ideol has proposed a floating wind project located off Santa Barbara County, California (Ideol)

Published Nov 4, 2021 5:44 PM by The Maritime Executive

Efforts to launch what may become one of the first wind farms off the coast of California are proceeding forward. In late October, the California State Lands Commission took steps to begin the next milestone in a permitting process for the pilot offshore wind energy project. 

The 40 MW pre-commercial floating wind project will be installed off Vandenberg Space Force Base (formerly Vandenberg Air Force Base), located in Santa Barbara County, California. The upcoming environmental assessment comes just over two years after BW Ideol’s initial lease application submittal. It is a key element of a standard approval process and the result of extensive collaboration with the California State Lands Commission’s staff as well as extensive stakeholder outreach by the Commission.

“We are pleased with the progress on the project at a time when both the Biden Administration and the State of California have made strong statements in favor of offshore wind development in California,” said Paul de la Guérivière, the CEO of BW Ideol. “This pilot project will provide local stakeholders with exposure to and reassurance of the impacts and benefits of floating offshore wind.” 

The project development plan calls for the use of  BW Ideol’s concrete hulls while also minimizing long-distance shipping and logistics by using local labor. It would rely on the supply chain and infrastructure in California to reduce the carbon footprint and maximize local content contribution.

In 2019, BW Ideol conducted an in-depth review of all major California ports and identified at least five suitable sites for the construction and launch of concrete hulls for commercial-scale wind farms (50 units or more). Two of these were considered immediately suitable without any upgrades. In addition, the review singled-out four sites suitable for wind turbine assembly and eight harbors capable of storing mooring lines as well as hosting operation and maintenance bases.

California began efforts more than five years ago with a task force focusing on the development of sites offshore for wind energy. Authorities said that they believed especially along the northern California coast that conditions were best suited to the use of floating wind turbines. In May 2021, the Biden administration announced the selection of the first sites for offshore leases and in July 2021, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced the next steps designed to advance the development of offshore wind on the Pacific Coast off California.