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The U.S. Navy last week for the first time signaled its willingness to permit offshore wind facilities off the coast of Central California after Congressman U.S. Representative Salud Carbajal, whose coastal district would stand to benefit from nearby offshore wind development, spent months encouraging local, state and federal officials, including DOD, to identify solutions. Greentech Media reports that the Navy has released a map demarcating areas that it considers viable for offshore wind development that would not impede DoD activities, nevertheless, wind developers are concerned that there is not enough area for them to make a go of it.
Why This Matters: The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) had said earlier this year that it could hold an auction for offshore wind lease areas in California this year given the need for vast amounts of renewable power to meet the state’s climate goals. Many in the offshore wind industry increasingly consider the state as a viable offshore development site. But as long as the Navy was standing in the way, no project stood a chance. So while there are still obstacles, this positive movement by the Navy, particularly during the Trump administration, is good news.
The Navy and the Developers
The Navy still has reservations about the development of wind. A Navy spokesperson told GreenTech Media that the zones identified in the new map “still create impacts for Defense Department operations, but added that those impacts could be managed ‘with long-term protective measures and additional collaboration with some of our partners.’” A spokesman for the offshore wind industry in California was positive about the new map calling it a “starting point for discussion,” but added that there “is still much work to be done to identify adequate space in the ocean so that a sustainable offshore wind industry can be established.”
Both sides hope that further discussions will yield more progress. And in the meantime, the California Energy Commission is accepting comments on the new map through May 15, 2020. As it stands, California and BOEM had previously identified some 600 square miles of technically developable sea space on the Central Coast but the map only identifies about 80 square miles of non-continuous commercially viable sea space as acceptable to DoD, so there is still more progress needed.
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