Surveys to Begin Off California for First Floating Wind Farm

floating wind turbine
Survey work is starting for California and RWE's first floating offshore wind farm (RWE)

Published Jun 13, 2024 5:37 PM by The Maritime Executive


Site survey work is set to kick off this month for RWE’s Canopy Offshore Wind project which will be located approximately 20 miles off the coast of Humboldt Country in Northern California. The project will mark several firsts, including a milestone in the development of RWE’s first commercial-scale floating offshore wind farm and the beginning of work on the Pacific and off California after the first U.S. auction in 2022.

"Surveying is an important step on the path toward developing Canopy Offshore Wind,” said Sam Eaton, CEO of RWE Offshore Wind Holdings. Utilizing state-of-the-art technology, the project will gather data about the federal lease area and the area between the lease and shore in federal waters. The waters in the lease area reach over 2,300 feet deep.

RWE has selected Argeo, a subsea service provider that has supported the development of clean energy projects around the world, to perform the site investigation work for Canopy. Due to the water depths in the lease area off the Pacific Coast of the U.S., Argeo will utilize an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) during this initial site characterization effort at the site. They highlight the system will enable high-quality data collection close to the seafloor, including photographs of biological communities.

"We will conduct subsea surveying utilizing proven, state-of-the-art technology," said Dave Gentle, Vice President for North and South America at Argeo. "With extensive experience in ocean surveying, Argeo is well-equipped to deliver comprehensive and detailed site information.”

They highlight that the AUV is battery-powered and can stay below the sea surface for extended periods. The use of AUVs as survey platforms will also significantly reduce the potential for entanglement of fishing gear as they are not towed equipment.

In compliance with U.S. permitting requirements and to ensure the project is developed in a responsible and safe manner, the survey work will also utilize certified, independent, Protected Species Observers on the survey vessels. Their role is to detect and avoid marine mammals during survey activities and to collect visual observation data on marine wildlife. RWE has selected Geo SubSea and Coastal 35 Consulting to provide PSOs on survey vessels.

Canopy plans to conduct initial site investigation surveys during 2024 and 2025, with the first activities beginning this month. By comprehensively mapping the seafloor, RWE says the project will begin to assess the best locations for installing wind turbines, anchors, and electric cables and better understand biodiversity, habitats, and other environmental factors to ensure responsible planning and design that minimizes the impact on ocean ecosystems. 

RWE secured the right to develop an estimated 1.6 GW project in the 2022 federal offshore lease auction. Canopy Offshore Wind is expected to be in operation by the mid-2030s, contingent upon the permitting and regulatory timeline.