Environment

If Morro Bay gets a wind farm, here’s who would buy the electricity

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Though a firm decision is still likely a year away, some of the key players in a plan to make the Morro Bay coast home to a mass of floating wind turbines are getting their ducks in a row now.

On Thursday, Castle Wind LLC announced it has entered into an agreement with a Community Choice Energy agency, Monterey Bay Community Power, outlining their shared interests in establishing a floating offshore wind project off the Central California coast.

According to a news release, the companies signed a memorandum of understanding saying Monterey Bay Community Power will buy about 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy from Castle Wind in long-term power purchasing agreements once a Morro Bay wind project is realized.

According to the release, Monterey Bay Community Power is a locally controlled, nonprofit agency operating out of Monterey, San Benito and Santa Cruz counties.

It is expected to expand into Morro Bay and San Luis Obispo in 2020 and the rest of San Luis Obispo County in 2021, according to the release.

“Monterey Bay Community Power is committed to serving our local communities with cleaner energy,” CEO Tom Habashi said in the news release. “In addition to creating new, local renewable infrastructure and jobs, we recognize the tremendous potential benefits of economically priced offshore renewable energy, including offshore wind’s primary system value coming from its ability to serve the region’s evening load when energy prices and carbon emissions are highest.”

Castle Wind CEO Alla Weinstein said the company is “pleased to be working with Monterey Bay Community Power on a power purchasing agreement to deliver local clean energy from offshore wind.”

“While the project is still several years away, we know that offshore wind is poised to play an integral role in California’s electricity portfolio, which will help the state meet its aggressive climate goals at the least cost,” she said in the news release.

According to Thursday’s news release, the Castle Wind Offshore project — as it is now being called — would be located more than 30 miles from the California coastline in federally managed waters.

If awarded a lease from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), Castle Wind anticipates producing 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy by about 2025.

BOEM leasing

Castle Wind, a joint venture between Trident Winds inc. and EnBW North America Inc., first expressed an interest in a plot of ocean outside of San Simeon, now known as the Morro Bay call area, in 2016.

Since then, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has undertaken the arduous task of exploring wind farm opportunities of California’s coast.

In April, the federal agency announced 11 companies had applied to build farms off the Central Coast, both at the Morro Bay call area and one outside of Diablo Canyon.

Castle Wind was among those that applied.

The bureau is expected to hold a lease auction for the two Central Coast call sites, and another outside of Humboldt, sometime in 2020. It is also currently waiting for direction from the U.S. Navy on whether it will support wind energy development off the coast.

Agreement with Morro Bay

Thursday’s memorandum of understanding isn’t the first Castle Wind has entered into locally.

The Morro Bay City Council signed an agreement with the company in November 2018 saying it supported the efforts to establish an offshore wind project in the area.

“We’re obviously very excited about that,” Morro Bay Mayor John Headding told The Tribune in March.

Headding noted at that time that the city is uniquely situated as a prime location for wind energy development because of its high winds and existing power infrastructure left over from the defunct Morro Bay Power Plant.

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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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