A wind farm off the coast of San Luis Obispo County that could help further state and national goals to produce more clean energy and jobs appears to be moving a bit closer to reality — although still probably years away from being built.
The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has opened for bidding a 765-megawatt wind energy project off the coast of Morro Bay.
Seattle-based Trident Winds has applied for an “outer continental shelf” lease to install 100 floating foundations, each supporting a wind turbine that would generate 7 to 8 megawatts of energy. The proposed lease area is about 33 nautical miles northwest of Morro Bay and would cover 67,963 acres of ocean in water 2,600 to 3,300 feet deep.
One or more transmission lines would bring the electricity ashore in Morro Bay, where it could be distributed to the state power grid using the lines from the Morro Bay Power Plant, which Dynegy closed in 2014.
Offshore wind farms have been going online in Europe, but they are a new development in the United States, with the first scheduled to start producing electricity in October off the coast of Rhode Island. The trend is expected to continue. To date, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has awarded 11 commercial offshore wind leases off the Atlantic coast.
Trident Winds, which specializes in offshore wind turbine development, approached the city of Morro Bay last year, seeking cooperation regarding an offshore project and potential reuse of the Morro Bay Power Plant outfall.
The Morro Bay City Council approved a memorandum of cooperation Oct. 13, 2015, outlining the potential use of the outfall and requiring Trident Winds to engage in significant public outreach on the project. About 100 people attended a forum on the project in Morro Bay in December.
The federal agency announced the bidding earlier this month. If there is interest beyond Trident’s application, the agency will initiate a competitive leasing process. If no expressions of interest are received, the agency will proceed with a noncompetitive leasing process with Trident.
The lease is part of the state’s effort to produce 50 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030.
“As California moves forward to meet 50 percent of the state’s needs with clean, renewable energy by 2030, wind power will play an important role,” said David Hochschild of the California Energy Commission.
The agency will accept public comment on the project until Sept. 17. To comment, go to http://boem.gov/Public-Engagement-Opportunities.
Areas off the West Coast and Hawaii could generate 1.5 terawatts of offshore wind energy — enough to power more than 500 million homes, according to the agency.
Trident applied for the lease Jan. 14. For more information, go to www.boem.gov/California.
Trident is interested in using the city’s outfall facility at the northeast side of Morro Rock, which was leased by Dynegy from the city 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.