The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) has announced two actions advancing the federal wind leasing process offshore California
Firstly, BOEM will publish a ‘Call for Information and Nominations’ to request information from the public and determine industry interest in commercial offshore wind energy development for two new areas within a 1,033 km2 area off central California, identified as the Morro Bay Call Area East and West Extensions.
The new areas are adjacent to the Morro Bay Call Area, originally identified by BOEM in 2018. The extension areas will be included in BOEM’s overall analysis of the Morro Bay 399 Area.
Secondly, BOEM has formally designated the Humboldt Wind Energy Area (WEA) offshore northern California and will now proceed with an environmental review of the area, as required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
BOEM director Amanda Lefton said, “Today’s announcement builds on an earlier agreement between the White House, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Defense, and the state of California to advance areas for offshore wind off the northern and central coasts of California. If approved for offshore wind energy development, these areas could bring us closer to reaching this administration’s goal of deploying 30 GW of offshore wind by 2030.”
On 25 May 2021, the Departments of the Interior and Defense and the state of California announced their agreement to advance areas for wind energy development offshore the northern and central coasts of California, enabling a path forward for the Humboldt Call Area and areas within and adjacent to the Morro Bay Call Area.
BOEM acting Pacific region director Thomas Liu said, “While we are still in the initial stages of BOEM’s leasing process, this announcement reflects years of working with ocean users, Tribal Governments and local, state and federal agencies to obtain the best available information to reduce potential conflicts. The Morro Bay Call and Humboldt environmental assessment offer important opportunities to further solicit feedback from Tribes, ocean users and stakeholders.”
In addition to contributing to the goals of the Biden-Harris administration, BOEM noted that development of offshore wind energy can help California reach its goal of 100% carbon-free energy by 2045, create jobs and foster investment in coastal communities.
BOEM also noted that offshore wind resources are typically stronger and more consistent than winds over land and are especially strong in the evening hours when solar energy production drops off, ensuring that offshore wind energy can make an important contribution to California’s electric grid.
The Morro Bay Call Area East Extension and the Morro Bay Call Area West Extension offshore the central California coast consist of approximately 365 km2. BOEM will publish the ‘Commercial Leasing for Wind Power Development on the Outer Continental Shelf Offshore Morro Bay, California, East and West Extensions – Call for Information and Nominations’ in the Federal Register on 29 July 2021, which will initiate a 45-day public comment period. It will accept nominations and comments until 13 September 2021.
BOEM is also designating nearly 536 km2 as a WEA offshore Humboldt County in northern California. BOEM will conduct an environmental assessment (EA) of the WEA, per NEPA. The EA will consider potential environmental consequences of site characterisation activities such as survey activities and core samples, and site assessment activities such as installation of meteorological buoys associated with issuing wind energy leases in the WEA. The EA will also consider project easements associated with each potential lease issued, and grants for subsea cable corridors through state tidelands.
As part of BOEM’s scoping process, BOEM is seeking public comments on what should be considered as part of the EA.
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