Federal Grant Advances Plans for California’s First Wind Port in Humboldt

Humboldt Bay California
California plans to develop a wind port at Humboldt Bay in the northern part of the state (US Army Corps of Engineers file photo)

Published Jan 25, 2024 4:46 PM by The Maritime Executive


Plans to develop California’s first wind port are being advanced with news of a large federal grant. Still in the planning stage, the concept calls for an assembly and staging facility to be located in the Northern California city of Humboldt which could support the first two lease areas awarded in 2022 by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and help California reach its first goal of 25 MW offshore wind energy.

The Department of Transportation is awarding $426.7 million for the construction and maintenance of offshore wind infrastructure to the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation, and Conservation District. The award is being made under provisions in the Infrastructure Act of 2023.

“Offshore wind is a key tool for combatting climate change while providing the power we need to improve lives and grow the economy. And we are paving the way here in Humboldt with this first-of-its-kind offshore wind project on the West Coast,” said Representative Jared Huffman of California during a presentation ceremony on January 23. 

Humboldt Bay is the second-largest natural bay in California with commercial operations including wood imports and a historic industrial base in addition to the recreation activities in the area. Plans for the wind port were first announced in 2022 and Crowley won the rights to develop the project working with state and local officials. Crowley’s Wind Services group was negotiating a deal with the port to lease, develop, and operate the future Humboldt Bay Offshore Wind Heavy Lift Marine Terminal. The site design will support tenants in the manufacturing, installation, and operation of offshore wind floating platforms, the use of heavy cargo vessels, and staging for ultra-heavy turbine components. The agreement focuses on a 98-acre Phase I development, with options to expand later as needed. Phase 2 could double the size of the facility.

“It is a remarkable honor for the Harbor District to receive Federal funding for construction of the proposed Heavy Lift Marine Terminal Project. The project is designed to serve as a multi-purpose port facility to support offshore wind throughout the West Coast of the US,” said Rob Holmlund, Director of Development for the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District.

The project previously received $8.6 million through the Department of Transportation and MARAD’s Port Infrastructure Program. It will require matching investments private investments but the first federal grants are an important step in the process.

Port officials highlight that its location means it could support both the planned wind farms off Humboldt Bay but also Morro Bay. The two Northern California sites were the first auction by BOEM in December 2022. California’s offshore topography means that they will need to be floating offshore wind farms requiring massive structures which the wind port is designed to accommodate. Port officials said it could accommodate 25 MW turbines, the largest currently anticipated by the industry.

Permitting and reviews are proceeding for the planned wind port and is expected to be completed by 2025. Port officials said that even on that timeline, construction could be completed by 2029 in time to support the development of California’s first offshore wind farms.