Environment

Should the Central Coast be a new hub for wind energy in California?

Hundreds of wind turbines could pop up along the coast off Los Osos and Cambria — but before they do,the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Managment wants to know if you think that’d be a good idea.

The bureau is collecting comments from the public on the potential for offshore wind turbines along the Central Coast.

At an open meeting in San Luis Obispo on Thursday night, department representatives asked for everyone to get their thoughts in by Jan. 28.

“Input from local ocean users, tribes, and communities adjacent to the call areas is critical in the BOEM planning process,” BOEM spokesman John Romero wrote in an email to The Tribune on Friday. “Local input helps us determine whether or not these areas may be appropriate for future offshore wind leasing.

“To date, typical issues raised relate to commercial fishing, wildlife, viewshed, socioeconomics, and compatibility with military activities.”

The department is still in the very earliest stages of considering wind energy along our cost.

BOEM published a call for information and nominations on Oct. 19, asking for public input on the potential for offshore wind energy developments in three “call areas”: the two on the Central Coast, and another in Northern California off the coast of Humboldt County.

The department is also receiving nominations and applications for commercial wind energy leases in these areas.

Castle Wind LLC has already expressed an interest in the Morro Bay call area, located about 24 miles away from Cambria.

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Courtesy of Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

The Morro Bay City Council signed an agreement with the company in November to support Castle Wind’s efforts to generate approximately 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy with an offshore wind project in the area.

Talk of wind farms on the Central Coast comes as PG&E plans to close Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant in 2025.

On Thursday night, Jean Thurston, a renewable energy program specialist with BOEM, said the Central Coast is likely about eight or nine years away from seeing any wind turbines constructed — and there are still plenty of potential roadblocks to them being built at all.

First, the department has to finish its planning and analysis phase that includes the call for information and nomination, plus public comment, identifying potential areas of interest and then environmental reviews.

Then it would move on to an auction to lease the lands. Once a lease is in hand, a company could move on to the site assessment phase, followed ultimately by construction.

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Kaytlyn Leslie kleslie@thetribunenews.com

Public comment is integral in the current phase of planning, Thurston said, urging the dozens of people in the audience to submit their thoughts to the department.

“Clearly identify what your concern is,” she said. “Let us know how offshore wind affects you. Give us some examples if you can.”

Linda and Tori Poppenheimer, who live in Cambria, told The Tribune on Thursday night that they support developing wind energy along the coast.

“I believe we need to get off fossil fuels ASAP,” Linda Poppenheimer said. “I’m totally for wind farms.”

Poppenheimer, who identified herself as an environmentalist, said she wants to make sure that wind farm development is done in a way that protects wildlife, the ocean and fishing.

“I think this is the perfect place to do it,” she said. “The infrastructure is in place, Diablo Canyon is closing, we’ve got things going on in Morro Bay — I think it would be great for our community.”

How to comment

There are two ways to comment on the proposal.

To comment online via the federal eRulemaking Portal, visit www.regulations.gov. Search for “BOEM-2018-0045” and then follow the instructions to submit your comments.

To comment by mail, send your comments and information to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Office of Strategic Resource Renewable Energy Section, 760 Paseo Camarillo, Suite 102, Camarillo, CA, 93010.

For more information on the proposal, visit www.boem.gov/California.

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Kaytlyn Leslie writes about business and development for The San Luis Obispo Tribune. Hailing from Nipomo, she also covers city governments and happenings in the South County region, including Arroyo Grande, Pismo Beach and Grover Beach. She joined The Tribune in 2013 after graduating from Cal Poly with her journalism degree.
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