11 companies want to build offshore wind farms near Morro Bay, Diablo Canyon

Massive pods of 700-foot floating wind turbines off the coast of California are edging closer to becoming a reality, now that the state has firm applications from several companies hoping to realize the vision.

Fourteen companies have applied to build wind turbine farms along the California coast, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced in April.

Notably for the Central Coast, 11 of the 14 companies expressed a specific interest in a plot of ocean outside of San Simeon, labeled the Morro Bay call area, and 11 expressed an interest in the Diablo Canyon call area outside of the nuclear power plant.

Among those was Castle Wind LLC, which first expressed an interest in the Morro Bay call area back in January 2016 as Trident Winds LLC — kicking off a discussion of offshore wind farms along the California coast.

The BOEM issued a call for applications in October 2018, asking for commercial companies interested in leasing space for 700-foot, floating offshore wind turbines along parts of the California coast.

The 14 companies selected have additionally been vetted by the BOEM, and found to be “legally, technically and financially qualified to hold an outer continental shelf renewable energy lease,” according to the bureau’s website.

None of the companies have been offered leases yet — that is still pending further review by the organization, BOEM spokesman John Romero told The Tribune via email.

“BOEM is currently reviewing the comments and nominations received and will continue to consult with the state of California and other federal agencies to inform our decision to offer all or part of the call areas for commercial wind leasing,” Romero wrote.

offshore wind how it works
Energy captured by offshore wind turbines on the Central Coast would be transmitted by cable to shore, where it could connect to California’s grid through either the Morro Bay Power Plant or Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, which is scheduled to close in 2025. Floating turbines would be connected by cables and anchored to the ocean floor. U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

Meanwhile, the bureau is still waiting to hear from the U.S. Navy on whether it will support wind energy development off the coast.

State and San Luis Obispo County leaders told The Tribune in March that they were informed the Navy would likely recommend against building potential wind farms off the coast of Morro Bay and Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant — something that could effectively sink hopes for the North Coast to be a new hub of renewable energy.

Leaders held a meeting with military officials and BOEM to suss out potential compromises and solutions to the Navy’s concerns, but no word has since been released on the Navy’s stance. (The Navy released a map in 2017 that marked much of the ocean off the Central Coast as unsuitable to wind energy because it would interfere with military operations and testing.

In a Tribune article published March 21, Third District Supervisor Adam Hill said he felt the Navy could be persuaded to allow wind turbines in the Morro Bay call area, though he doubted it would be allowed in the Diablo Canyon call area.

Morro Bay Mayor John Headding echoed Hill’s assertion.

morro bay map.JPG
A map shows potential call areas for future wind farm developments. Courtesy of Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

As of May 6, Romero said BOEM had not received a letter from the Navy expressing a position on potential offshore wind leasing opportunities in Central California.

The next step, according to Romero, is for BOEM to decide whether it all or part of the call areas are appropriate for leasing, and then choose which, if any, companies will be offered leases.

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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.