A wind-energy company is considering building a system off the coast of Morro Bay — and has reached out to the city, the owner of the shuttered power plant there and other interested groups to gauge the possibilities of a future project.
Trident Winds LLC, consisting of partners from Washington and Colorado, is contemplating installing about 100 floating turbines to generate power from offshore winds.
The turbines would be anchored to the ocean floor about 15 miles offshore, said Eric Markell, one of Trident’s partners. The company won’t move forward with picking a location without the support of the fishing community, he said.
Trident is interested in using the city’s outfall facility at the northeast side of Morro Rock, which was leased by Dynegy as part of the water cooling system for its power plant before the plant was decommissioned in 2014.
Trident envisions running transmission cable lines from the offshore turbines through the outfall pipeline to the Morro Bay Power Plant switchyard, which is connected to the state power grid.
Any use of the outfall would have to be negotiated with the city.
Trident would also need to negotiate a deal with Dynegy, which owns the old power plant, to use the site and connect to the switchyard. Trident hopes to arrange a meeting with Dynegy, Markell said by phone from his office in Bellevue, Wash.
Dynegy has explored a wave-energy operation as a potential reuse of its Morro Bay property.
Dynegy and consulting firm GWave have received approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to test a wave-energy facility that also would deliver energy from offshore lines through the outfall to the power plant facility.
The latest developments with that project were unclear. Dynegy, which is based in Houston, briefly put the Morro Bay property on the market in February.
A Dynegy spokesman said Tuesday that no information was available regarding the 100-acre Morro Bay site.
The wave-energy concept and Trident’s wind-energy idea are independent of one another.
Because the power plant is owned by a private corporation and located on private property, the city maintains some influence over its use, but not control.
“We’d just like to have a free-flowing conversation with the city about its interests,” Markell said. “There’s a blank slate here upon which to draw up possibilities.”
City Manager Dave Buckingham said a memorandum of cooperation to hold ongoing talks with Trident could be worked out in October.
“The city is not negotiating with Trident or any entities considering the purchase of the (decommissioned) Morro Bay Power Plant, but is in dialogue with Trident to find where mutual interests lie in an open and transparent manner,” Buckingham said.
The Morro Bay City Council met to discuss how it plans to proceed with Trident at a closed-session meeting last week.
Markell said Morro Bay is an appealing location because of the offshore wind conditions and its proximity to the switchyard.
As the state ramps up its renewable energy use goals to 33 percent by 2020 and 50 percent by 2030, Markell said, wind energy is a viable option to complement solar power.
“We see ourselves as potentially a small solution to a big problem that can’t be solved by solar power alone,” Markell said.
The wind-energy idea is in the early stages with planning hurdles involving multiple government agencies, the city, Dynegy and interested parties such as commercial fishermen before it would ever come to fruition.
Buckingham said Tuesday the city wants “long-term, appropriate redevelopment and best use of the Morro Bay Power Plant facility.”
“The existing facility sits on 100 acres of prime oceanfront and bayfront land in Morro Bay,” Buckingham said. “We are using our influence to ensure appropriate use and potential redevelopment of that critical site. … The city is happy that Trident is not interested in repowering the existing MBPP or introducing any fossil-fuel generation at the existing MBPP site.”
Buckingham said Trident has met with the local commercial fishing community and the Northern Chumash Tribal Council to inform them of the idea.
The city and fishing community have been concerned with the proposed location of Dynegy’s wave-energy test site, about 3 miles due west of the Morro Bay Harbor, saying it could interfere with marine life, fishing and boating activities.
“The city is also happy that, in addition to being fully committed to renewable energy at the MBPP site, Trident has expressed genuine interest — and already met with (the fishing community and Chumash),” Buckingham said.