Board of Local Energy Agency Unanimously Directs Staff to Pursue Agreement With Terra-Gen Wind Project

The board of the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) on Thursday unanimously directed staff to negotiate a power purchase agreement with renewable energy company Terra-Gen, along with two other green-electricity producers.

If signed by the board later this summer, the agreement would put to rest at least one criticism being tossed around by skeptics of Terra-Gen’s proposed Humboldt Wind Energy project — namely, that the power produced by the ridge-top turbines wouldn’t even be consumed locally.

Under the proposal, RCEA, the local joint powers authority that manages Humboldt County’s community choice power aggregation program, would enter into a 15-year contract to purchase up to 90 megawatts, or about two-thirds of the capacity from Terra-Gen’s planned Humboldt Wind energy project, which includes up to 60 turbines atop Monument and Bear River Ridges near Scotia.

The board also directed staff to negotiate two other renewable energy contracts. One would be a 12-year deal for up to 50 megawatts via a Fresno County solar energy project being developed by San Francisco-based Candela Renewables LLC, and the other would be a 15-year agreement for the full 5.5-megawatt capacity of Snow Mountain Hydro LLC’s existing Cove hydropower project in Shasta County.

RCEA Executive Director Matthew Marshall said the agency issued a request for proposals a while back, and the review team awarded preference points for local and regional projects. However, of the 13 proposals received just a handful, including the one from Snow Mountain Hydro, came from within a two-county radius, and Terra-Gen’s was the only one from within Humboldt County.

The review team consisted of RCEA staff members along with experts from The Energy Authority (TEA), Schatz Energy Research Center, TRC Advanced Energy Services, and the Humboldt County Planning Department.

“I think that the timing of this project is pretty much perfect,” Marshall said in reference to the Humboldt Wind Energy proposal. The state is currently requiring electricity providers to enter into long-term contracts for renewable power — an initiative aimed at boosting investment in green energy — and with the constraints of Humboldt County’s electricity grid, Marshall said, RCEA needed to find a new, local source if it hopes to achieve its goal of providing 100 percent renewable electricity to Humboldt County consumers by 2030.

“The timing is hitting us in stride,” Marshall said.

In recent weeks, many have voiced concerns about the Humboldt Wind Energy project, especially residents of Ferndale and Rio Dell. In fact, the Rio Dell City Council issued a “strongly worded response” to the draft environmental impact report, officially opposing the project. They argues that it was being “fast-tracked” in a way that precluded appropriate technical studies and public input.

And yet Thursday’s board vote was unanimous, meaning both the Ferndale representative (City Councilmember Robin Smith) and the Rio Dell representative (City Councilmember Frank Wilson) gave their approval to pursue a contract.

The Outpost‘s attempts to reach those two on Friday were unsuccessful, but Board Chair Michael Winkler, a vocal proponent of the wind farm, said he and his fellow board members felt the project would be “beneficial enough to customers and to Humboldt County” that a contract is worth pursuing, “despite strong opposition from some in their communities.”

Winkler said that if all the contracts are approved, RCEA would begin receiving power from Snow Mountain Hydro in 2021, Terra-Gen in 2022 (when the turbines are expected to start running) and Candela Solar in 2023.

“All together, assuming everything goes as planned, about 80 percent of the electricity delivered to customers from RCEA would come from two biomass plants, the Terra-Gen project and [various] solar projects,” Winkler said.

RCEA’s long-term plans involve procuring energy from an offshore wind project.

“Wind is our greatest resource here,” Marshall said, noting that Humboldt is not the sunniest place in the state.

And while the proposed offshore wind farm is still several years off, at least, Winkler said the technology will eventually make the agency an exporter of electricity while allowing local projects to switch from petroleum-based fuels to green energy.

Marshall said staff will now begin negotiating terms for final power purchase agreements with the three companies, and they hope to bring the matter back for board consideration at the August meeting.

 

Board of Local Energy Agency Unanimously Directs Staff to Pursue Agreement With Terra-Gen Wind Project, by Ryan Burns, Lost Coast Outpost, June 28, 2019.

Humboldt County, cities join climate pact

HUMBOLDT –  Humboldt’s county government is joining all seven cities in devising a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and is also becoming a member of an international group that promotes global sustainability policies.

The county’s Board of Supervisors took several actions to advance the drafting of a Climate Action Plan at its June 11 meeting.

The collaboration between the county and the cities includes the shared funding of an $88,500 contract with the Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA), a joint powers authority which will be the consultant for the action plan.

The county’s General Plan calls for implementation of the action plan and Senior Planner Michael Richardson told supervisors that the county, the cities and RCEA have already established working relationships.

“(RCEA) is really taking a lead role in climate action plans countywide,” he said, adding that agency has received grant funding to contribute to the effort. “We’ve already got a great start in developing this climate action plan, we’ve been working with the cities for several months now, getting the groundwork together for a successful public engagement process.”

The public outreach has begun, with a workshop held in McKinleyville on June 12. Richardson said a regional-scale public meeting will be held on July 24.

Supervisors approved the county’s $50,000 share of the RCEA contract. The agreement with the cities sets the contract’s costs shares and defines the goals of the action plan.

The county’s existing inventory of greenhouse gas emission volume will be included in the plan and each city will include theirs. Emissions to the year 2040 will be forecasted and an emissions reduction goal for 2030 will be set.

At a minimum, each jurisdiction will meet the state’s reduction goals. California has already met its 2020 goal of reducing emissions to 1990 levels and its 2030 goal is to reduce emissions by 40 percent below that.

The local action plan will outline specific implementation measures and describe the greenhouse gas emission reduction potential of each one.

Supervisors also approved membership to the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI). Richardson said the group is “internationally recognized and “provides consulting for its member organizations.”

The board endorsed joining the group last March and followed up on it by appointing Supervisor Mike Wilson as the county’s representative.

The effort is likely to draw a high degree of community involvement.

“Not only do governmental entities think this is an important move forward, I think the community at large is very engaged in this issue,” said Supervisor Estelle Fennell.

Supervisors approved the actions with minimal discussion. “This all sounds like progress to me,” Wilson said.

The plan will be shaped by a Stakeholder Advisory Group and an environmental impact review. Local Climate Action Plan adoptions are scheduled for the spring of 2020.

 

Humboldt County, cities join climate pact, by Daniel Mintz, Mad River Union, June 25, 2019.

Humboldt Wind Project Faces Tough Scrutiny Despite Local Goal Of 100% Renewable Energy By 2025

For the second time in ten years, Humboldt County’s environmental community in coordination with neighborhood groups in the area hope to kill a wind power project proposed for Monument and Bear Ridge area south and west of Rio Dell in the most northerly part of California’s Lost Coast.

As an example, Friends of the Eel River’s Conservation Director, Scott Greacen, wrote recently,

While Friends of the Eel strongly believes that an accelerated transition to clean energy is needed to stem the worst impacts of climate change, infrastructure project siting is critical to a project’s suitability, and one of this size at this particular site could have dire impacts on imperiled wildlife and their habitat.  You may remember that Shell Energy had a similar proposal for the same site many years ago that was withdrawn in the face of strong community opposition.

The potential of Earth’s temperature crisis to altogether eliminate endangered species juxtaposed with environmentalists resistance to green power’s impacts on the local environment underscores the complexity of transforming a global power grid from fossil fuels to cleaner energy sources and takes the scope of the conversation out of Humboldt County alone and joins it to the global effort to maintain a livable planet.

The Project

Just under a year ago, Humboldt County’s Planning Department announced that an applicant, Humboldt Wind LLC, a subsidiary of Terra-Gen, had applied to build the Humboldt Wind Energy Project, and that Humboldt County would be the lead agency in the CEQA process which would include an Environmental Impact Report.

Since then, Terra-Gen has completed the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) on its proposal to build as many as 60 turbines, with 500 foot rotors, along two coastal ridges southwest of Rio Dell, to produce a maximum 155MW (155,000,000 watts)of renewable power. This is nearly equal to PG&E’s natural gas generation station at King Salmon which can deliver up to 163MW of power.

As part of the CEQA process, on Tuesday, the 28th of May, Terra-Gen hosted an open house in Ferndale at the Old Steeple to speak with the community about their proposed project. About 50 people attended the open house. Humboldt local Natalynn DeLapp, who is serving as a local liaison for the Humboldt Wind Energy Project, led the meeting.

If built at its proposed scale, the project’s energy production will be equivalent to just over a third of the Humboldt County’s current demand for electric power. However, staff from Terra-Gen stated that the plans are adaptable to input from the public and therefore details may change as the CEQA process moves forward. Already the project may pull back from most or all of its Bear River Ridge footprint after objections about its intrusion into the “Cape Mendocino Grassland” which is an important repository for native grasses and is also highly populated bird territory.

According to its website, Terra-Gen is a renewable energy company producing 1.3 GW through wind, solar and geothermal sources in the western United States. Locally, work on its proposed Humboldt Wind Generation Project in Humboldt County has already produced a completed Draft Environmental Impact Report with a public comment deadline that ended on the 14th of June.

Read more

The Cost of Wind

Give me the restless power of the wind,” wrote lyricist John Hall in an anthem about renewable energy popularized by Peter, Paul and Mary. The phrase evokes sails billowing in the wind, or maybe a cooling breeze on a hot summer’s day. But in reality, wind energy on a scale large enough to power an entire community requires an industrial facility with machinery, roads and dozens of turbines that can stand up to 600 feet tall — and a lot of land or ocean water — to site them on.

This reality has been brought home to Humboldt County residents by several proposed wind energy projects over the past decade. The first, the Shell Bear River Ridge wind energy project, was soundly nixed by residents when they learned that over-sized trucks would be traveling through downtown Ferndale. Last month, a plan to bring offshore wind energy ashore was denounced by fishermen, who pointed out that large portions of the area’s fisheries might be made unavailable to the local fleet. The most recent wind energy proposal, brought forward by the San Diego-based Terra-Gen, which has already placed hundreds of wind turbines in Kern County, was discussed on May 28 at a public gathering in Ferndale’s Old Steeple.

The project, if approved by the county’s planning commission, will place up to 60 wind turbines on top of two prominent ridges — Bear River Ridge and Monument Ridge, located south and east of Fortuna. It is being opposed by many members of the environmental community, the Wiyot Tribe and some local residents concerned about the project’s effects on their viewshed.

Terra-Gen project liaison Natalynne DeLapp, who formerly served as executive director of the Environmental Protection Information Center and currently works as operations director of the Humboldt County Growers Alliance, outlined the proposed facility and the mitigations the company is prepared to make to reduce its likely impacts.

Approximately 100 people filled the stained-glass-decorated interior of the former church and, judging from the tenor of the questions and remarks, many were not happy with the project. Aided by Stantec Consulting Services senior biologist Yasmine Akky and Terra-Gen director of permitting Kevin Martin, DeLapp gave a 40-minute presentation on the project plans, using numerous slides, armloads of statistics and referring frequently to the project’s lengthy Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR).

The project, DeLapp said, is designed to reduce California’s dependence on natural gas and reach the goal of 100-percent renewable energy by 2045. Humboldt currently buys about 65 percent of its electricity from the grid and produces the rest locally, mostly through the natural gas-powered Humboldt Bay Power Plant, though Redwood Coast Energy Authority has adopted the goal of the county attaining all its power through renewable energy by 2025. It could purchase the renewable energy from other providers throughout the state or buy some from the Terra-Gen project, if it is approved and built.

DeLapp said Terra-Gen selected Humboldt County because it is windy, has available substations “and the ability to get permitted.” Rainbow Ridge and Shively Ridge were initially considered but ultimately rejected because of too many biological impacts. Monument Ridge and Bear River Ridge are owned by Humboldt Redwood Company and Russ Ranches, which are both willing to sign leases with Terra-Gen.

The project is designed to produce 155 megawatts of energy. Because the wind blows irregularly, the turbines will only operate about 40 percent of the time and the electricity they produce would be plugged into the grid at the Bridgeville substation, 24 miles to the east of the project site. Power loss along the transmission lines would reduce the wattage to 135 megawatts, which is the maximum capacity the Bridgeville substation can handle. This, DeLapp said, eliminates the possibility of expanding the wind project at some later date.

She estimated that the project could supply 36 percent of the county’s electricity needs, but less than 1 percent of those of the entire state. It would, however, make Terra-Gen the second largest taxpayer in Humboldt County.

If the project is approved, the turbine components will be barged in through Humboldt Bay to Fields Landing, where they will be transferred to large trucks and driven down U.S. Highway 101 to an area near Redcrest, called Jordan Creek Road. Old logging roads would be re-built to bring the project traffic to the ridge tops.

DeLapp showed visual simulations of what the turbine-festooned ridge tops would look like from different vantages 5 to 7 miles away. From many of the viewing sites, the turbines were invisible. From others, they showed as faint outlines against the sky.

There are still many unknowns about the project, even though the DEIR has already been written, including the exact locations of the turbines, the number of turbines, and their heights and sizes. DeLapp emphasized that the DEIR had been written to address the maximum possible impacts, even though it was unlikely that those would be reached.

A great many questions were asked at the meeting, many of them having to do with the project’s effects upon the plants and wildlife on the ridges. Monument Ridge is heavily forested and Bear River Ridge is open grassland that supports many raptors.

Marbled murrelets, an endangered species, could be impacted, as could northern spotted owls, bald eagles, golden eagles, bats and a variety of other organisms, including condors, once they are reintroduced locally.

Akky estimated that 20 murrelets could be killed over the estimated 30-year life of the project. She said that mitigations have been created to compensate for these losses, both of the murrelets and of other wildlife, and they were described in the DEIR but did not detail the mitigations.

DeLapp pointed out that the land had been used by both Pacific Lumber Co. and by cattle ranchers and is consequently far from pristine. One could also argue that trees growing on land owned by a timber company will not stand indefinitely.

Other questions were asked about the economics of the project, which will cost about $200 million, according to DeLapp and Martin, paid for by Terra-Gen’s parent company, Energy Capital Partners, an asset management company.

“The only public funding would come in the form of a tax write-off to the company on the gains,” DeLapp said.

Martin added that Terra-Gen did not get any funding from PG&E.

“We write checks to them,” he said.

It’s also worth noting that nobody in Humboldt would see a reduction in their PG&E bill as a result of the Terra-Gen project.

These economics aside, an audience member asked how much would it cost to install solar panels on every rooftop in Humboldt County.

“I did the math on this the other day,” DeLapp said. “One-hundred-thirty-five megawatts, which is what this project is, that’s 135 million watts. The average home solar system is about 7,000 watts … 19,285 homes would need to install a 7,000 watt solar system on their roof. On the average, a home solar system costs about $15,000 before tax credits. So if these 19,000 individuals installed these solar systems, it would cost those people $289,275,000.”

(The Board of Equalization shows 35,845 single-family residential homes in Humboldt County, which would make putting solar panels on every Humboldt County rooftop cost about twice what DeLapp said.)

Questions were also asked about roads. Martin explained that a 200-foot corridor would be cleared to permit roadways to be built but that the actual paved roads would be 24 feet wide. No herbicides would be used to keep the corridors cleared, he said.

The project would bring about 300 temporary construction jobs into the county but only 15 permanent jobs, and these would go to skilled workers who are experienced with wind turbine operations, and would likely be brought in from other areas.

Some audience members asked questions about the tax credits that would be lost or diminished if the project were to be delayed. At first DeLapp insisted that a delay would not hurt the project. Tax credits, she said, would be diminished but not lost altogether.

“The project is still financially viable if it does not begin construction this year. It is not such a flimsy project that it would be immediately stopped,” she said.

However, toward the end of the meeting, to get a definitive answer Martin phoned Terra-Gen’s vice president of development, and came up with a more ambiguous answer.

“Nothing has to be started this year to receive the tax credit,” he said. “If it is not operational by the end of next year, this drops off. … So does it not get built? Absolutely not. We take other routes.”

Since the project, according to DeLapp, will take 14 months to construct and the project “would need to be transmitting electrons by December 2020”, construction would have to begin this October to make that deadline.

DeLapp clarified after the meeting that the project would still move forward if the company misses the tax-credit deadline but would be more expensive and those costs would ultimately be passed on to energy customers.

At several different times, audience members asked why a project, which would have such a small net contribution to California’s energy needs, should be allowed to have such major impacts on Humboldt’s ranges and ridges. Project proponents replied that this is a social question and urged the audience to make comments to the Planning Commission, which will review the project in July.

In the meantime, anyone willing to sift through the 800-page DEIR to find answers to their questions, can find the document at www.humboldtgov.org/2408/Humboldt-Wind-EnergyProject.

Comments can be emailed to CEQAResponses@co.humboldt.ca.us but must be received by June 14.

 

The Cost of Wind, by Elaine Weinreb, The North Coast Journal, June 6, 2019.

Terragen Giving Presentation On Proposed Ridgetop Turbine Project In Ferndale On Tuesday

TerraGen, developers of the proposed ridgetop turbine project will give a presentation on their project at Old Steeple 246 Berding St, Ferndale, CA on Tuesday, May 28, 2019 at 5:30 p.m.

Humboldt Wind, LLC proposes the construction and operation of a wind energy project of up to 155 MW, with a project footprint involving 124 parcels, beginning west of State Highway 101, south of Rio Dell and Scotia, and terminating east of State Highway 101 in Bridgeville at the PG&E substation. Specific project components consist of:

*Up to 60 wind turbines with maximum height of 591 feet from base to highest point of blade rotation, set on concrete foundations.

*A 19 mile underground fiber optics communications system and electrical collection system linking the turbines to each other and to a substation for distribution into the General Transmission (Gen-tie) line.

*A 115 kiloVolt (kV) Gen-tie line of approximately 32 miles would transport the energy generated by the wind towers. The Gen-Tie line would begin at a new substation located west of Highway 101, span in an eastward direction, and cross under the Eel River. Once across the river, the Gen-Tie line would continue eastward as an overhead line and connect to the PG&E Bridgeville Substation for distribution into the power grid. PG&E substation expansion and improvements would be required.

*The wind tower and turbines with related components would enter Humboldt County via Humboldt Bay with anticipated port of entry at Fields Landing. No improvements to facilitate the offloading of turbine components from ships or barges have been proposed. There may be temporary off-ramps or other proposed modifications along Highway 101 to accommodate the oversized loads.

*Proposed throughout the project area are temporary and permanent operations, maintenance, and staging facilities, two temporary cement batch plants, and up to 17 miles of new access roads. Existing access roads will be widened to accommodate oversized truck-trailer loads.

*A permanent operations facility that includes related buildings and offices would be constructed on the west side of State Highway 101 at the Pepperwood/Avenue of the Giants exit.

Proposed turbines are the largest height to be used in the United States to date; twice as tall as the tallest coastal redwoods.  Permanent and temporary changes will cover over 900 acres on the project footprint and the length of Highway 101 from Field’s Landing to Pepperwood. Turbine transport requires up to 12 loads per turbine of which up to nine are oversized.  Vehicles do not fit California standards for height, width, weight and length and will require permits to function at 45-55 mph loaded and 55-60 mph unloaded returns.  Planned bypasses, widening, filling and other road modifications cover Visitor Access Road at Hookton Slough Wildlife Refuge, Loleta Drive, Fernbridge at Singley Road Overcrossing, Palmer Boulevard, Dinsmore Drive, and 12th Street exits.

A video presentation on the proposal is available at

https://humboldtgov.org/2408/Humboldt-Wind-Energy-Project

The project documents are located at

https://humboldtgov.org/2408/Humboldt-Wind-Energy-Project

Printed copies can be purchased at Scrappers’ Edge in Eureka.

All comments on the Draft EIR must be received by the County no later than 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday June 5, 2019 to be considered. Pursuant to Section 15088a of the CEQA Guidelines, late comments will be considered only at the County’s discretion.

Comments must be directed to:

Humboldt Wind Energy Project Planner

County of Humboldt Planning Department

3015 H Street

Eureka, CA 95501

CEQAResponses@co.humboldt.ca.us

 

Terragen Giving Presentation On Proposed Ridgetop Turbine Project In Ferndale On Tuesday, Press Release, Redheaded Blackbelt, May 26, 2019.

Casino’s Microgrid Offers New Hope

Northern California’s Blue Lake Rancheria Hotel & Casino has come up with a green-energy system so ingenious that it’s hard to believe that the venue has its prime focus on gambling and entertainment and not on the implementation of alternative sustainable energy solutions. Instead of being exclusively reliant on a typical electricity grid, the casino is fully able to function at 100% capacity thanks to its very own solar-powered microgrid.

In fact, the microgrid; a system that was developed by the casino with the help of scientists at the nearby Schatz Energy Research Centre as well as local utility providers PG&E; now offers new hope for the future of energy in the state as well as beyond its borders. And as is usually the case, necessity was the mother of this particular invention.

Here’s how it happened.

It Started In Japan

It all started with one of Japan’s most devastating earthquakes to date. In April of 2011, earthquake Fukushima ripped through the coast of Japan, and very soon, the force of its tremors caused a tsunami the likes of which the world had not seen in quite some time. The tidal disaster ended up spreading across the Pacific Ocean and ultimately caused approximately 3,000 coastal residents of Northern California to seek refuge on higher ground. The end-destination was the roughly 100 acres of tribal land known as Rancheria, California.

The massive migration served a crucial purpose at the time in that it opened the eyes of the Blue Lake Rancheria Hotel & Casino’s management regarding the real possibility of what it would be like to be completely cut off from the national electricity grid for weeks on end. The Rancheria is situated behind what is commonly referred to as the Redwood Curtain, and due to its extremely remote location, enjoyed limited access points to emergency and other necessary services like electricity and roads.

Tsunamis, Californian wildfires, earthquakes; these are all regular occurrences in the state; occurrences that when not managed pre-emptively, can effectively mean the end of Rancheria’s means to provide a home to its inhabitants.

Not Cheap – But So Worth It

Tesla battery power; a system that relies on solar rays; proved to be the ideal solution for the casino. The system effectively powers all of six buildings. The buildings are home to a 55,000 feet casino and a total of 102 fully functional hotel rooms.

Make no mistake; leaving the grid was no cheap or easy endeavour. To date, the casino has spent in excess of $6.3 million on the project so far.

But has it been worth it? A million times yes, says the Blue Lake Rancheria Hotel & Casino.

 

Casino’s Microgrid Offers New Hope, by Ben Hamill, Gaming Post, May 24, 2019.

Stakeholders Voice Concerns and Cautious Optimism About Offshore Wind Energy at McGuire-Hosted Hearing

A wide variety of interested parties gathered in a second-floor conference room at the Humboldt Bay Aquatic Center on Friday to explore this question: Can California’s fisheries and wildlife coexist with offshore wind energy development?

Over the course of the three-hour conference the consensus answer to that question seemed to be a qualified “yes,” though many cautioned that it will be essential for government and industry folks to consult with stakeholders early and often so communities can ensure that such projects don’t harm the environment or local fisheries.

The gathering, which was attended by government officials, industry professionals, environmental leaders and fisheries industry reps, was technically a hearing of the California State Senate’s Joint Committee on Fisheries and Aquaculture, and it was hosted by our own Senator Mike McGuire, who chairs that committee.

At the outset, the always-upbeat McGuire touted the “all-star lineup of panelists” who had been lined up for the event and divided into four separate panels: government agency reps, industry personnel, environmental leaders and, lastly, fisheries industry folks.

The government agency panel was up first, and like each subsequent panel they sat behind a long table that had been decked out in tablecloths of red and gold.

While several offshore wind energy projects have been developed in Europe, none have yet come online in the United States. However, Necy Sumait, chief of renewable energy for the Pacific Region at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), said today that her agency has conducted eight competitive wind energy lease sales for areas offshore the Atlantic coast, resulting in 15 active commercial wind energy leases.

Those leases, if fully developed, could generate enough energy to power 6.5 million homes, Sumait said. BOEM is now in the planning stages to identify additional potential lease areas off the coast of California and elsewhere, including (potentially) the waters west of Humboldt County. (Our ocean region has some of the highest wind speeds anywhere in the country, as you can see on this map.)

Sumait emphasized that BOEM is still in the earliest phase, planning and development, and when asked by McGuire to estimate how soon turbines might actually be installed and spinning off the West Coast, she said, “It could be — and don’t quote me on this — 2025.”

Chris Potter, a program manager with the California Ocean Protection Council, said wave, tidal and offshore wind energy projects could help the state meet its goal of zero-emission energy production for electricity by 2045 while creating jobs and reducing air pollution.

The next step in the process after potential lease sites are identified, Potter said, will be preparing for determinations of federal consistency with the California Coastal Act, which must occur before lease sales. This, he said, will provide a key opportunity for public input.

The state is funding studies at universities, including one at HSU exploring potential impacts to the marine environment and port-side regions of Humboldt Bay.

Dr. Kate Hucklebridge, a senior environmental scientist with the California Coastal Commission, said impacts to fisheries are probably unavoidable given how broad the fishing resources are in the state, particularly here on the North Coast.

During the industry panel’s time at the table, Kevin Banister, vice president of development at the offshore wind energy company Principle Power, said projects have already been proposed for both the north and south coasts of California, projects that could employ 17,000 people and generate 20 gigawatts of energy by the 2040s.

Mark Severy, senior research engineer at HSU’s Schatz Energy Research Center, said he and his Schatz colleagues are working on three wind-energy-related projects over the next year, though he also said there will be challenges locally. For one thing, power transmission capacity “is very limited in Humboldt County,” he said.

But Danielle Mills, California director at the American Wind Energy Association, struck a more optimistic tone, saying, “American wind power was born in California … and offshore wind energy is the future.”

She acknowledged that it’s important to collaborate with environmental groups but said it’s clear that the industry is coming to California, and the opportunities are “enormous.”

“Offshore wind has the potential to revitalize port communities like Eureka,” Mills said.

The next two panels expressed considerably more hesitation about the prospect of wind energy and its potential side effects. The panel of environmentalists voiced concerns about impacts to birds, marine mammals, fish and the rest of the flora and fauna in our region’s coastal seas.

“Very little is known about the bird component we have offshore here” because it’s too far out to conduct regular studies, said Chet Ogan of the Redwood Region Audubon Society.

He specifically expressed concerns about the Pacific black brant, though he said at least 40 species use the waters offshore of our North Coast region.

Jennifer Savage, California policy manager for the Surfrider Foundation (and a friend of this reporter), drew applause with her call for public transparency and rigorous vetting of the particulars, including third-party scientific analysis.

“Breaking free of fossil fuels is a global imperative … but we still have to do the right things the right way,” Savage said.

She added that while there have been many community outreach meetings on the matter, the majority have been rather repetitive in terms of content and light on details.

Sandy Aylesworth with the Natural Resources Defense Panel underlined the environmental concerns, noting that corals, sponges and fish live near the Humboldt Call Area, the local region slated for potential development. The spot is situated between two submarine canyons that serve as ocean wildlife habitats and nurseries while also sequestering carbon, Aylesworth said.

The final panel of the day was dubbed the “Fleet Panel,” and it included Harrison Ibach, president of the Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association; Noah Oppenheim, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fisheries Associations; and Annie Hawkins, executive director of an East Coast-based fisheries industry group called the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance.

These three — and particularly Ibach and Oppenheim — framed the prospect of wind energy development as yet another encroachment on the ocean territory that supports their struggling industry. This is a waterscape that’s already highly regulated and, as Ibach put it, “littered with large areas closed to fishing.”

Ibach also said fishermen have safety concerns: Will energy transmission lines interfere with the fleet’s routes back to shore in bad weather? for example. And floating wind farms will permanently take away vast swaths of fishing areas, further condensing their available fishing areas.

We cannot afford to lose any more fishing grounds,” Ibach said.

“From our perspective this is equivalent to eminent domain,” the transfer of assets from one set to another, Oppenheim said. He argued that many questions have yet to be answered and said environmental analysis won’t take place until after tens of millions of dollars has been spent.

Fishing industry folks are not opposed to wind energy on principle, these panelists said. But Oppenheimer said, “We obviously have a lot of work to do to get this right.”

During the public comment period that followed the panel discussions, many praised McGuire for organizing such an informative and diverse hearing

But McKinleyville resident Dennis Mayo, speaking on behalf of local fishermen, reiterated the call not to restrict fishing grounds any further.

“I know this is gonna happen,” he said, “but we’re just trying to figure out which eye we want you to gouge out.”

Local crab and salmon fisherman Dave Bitts, however, thanked the government agencies, Principle Power and the Redwood Community Energy Authority for involving the fishing community early.

Jen Kalt, director of Humboldt Baykeeper, said she’d come to many meetings on this topic and this was the most informative. And regarding the concerns of fishermen she pointed out that climate change brings the prospects of increased ocean acidification, toxic algae and sea level rise to our region and beyond, so focusing on clean energy is imperative.

Humboldt County Supervisor Estelle Fennell thanked the organizers and said she, for one, is hopeful about the prospects. “The challenge is great, but it’s really, really exciting.”

In closing McGuire told those in attendance that he had heard the message to consult with stakeholders “early and often,” and he promised a follow-up hearing sometime in the next 12 months.

 

Stakeholders Voice Concerns and Cautious Optimism About Offshore Wind Energy at McGuire-Hosted Hearing, by Ryan Burns, Lost Coast Outpost, May 3, 2019.

Floating Offshore Wind Turbine Free-For-All Hits California Coast

Things sure are happening fast around the US offshore wind power scene. Up until last week it looked like wind development along the Pacific coast would be a long time coming. Well, that was then. All of a sudden, no less than 14 companies are duking it out for the right to power up wind farms in the waters to the west of California.

To ice the offshore wind power cake, earlier this month the federal agency overseeing the offshore free-for-all advised stakeholders that the US has joined forces with The Netherlands and several other nations to accelerate the global offshore industry.

Wait — what?

Offshore Wind Farms For California, Finally

CleanTechnica has spilled a lot of ink over the idea that Pacific coast wind development is a tough row to hoe. You can’t pound turbines into the ocean floor because the water is too deep. The alternative is to float your turbines on the surface, and that’s a monumental technological challenge of epic proportions.

But, not an impossible one. The US Department of Energy has been on the prowl for “game-changing” designs for wind turbines that float, and California advocates are already tallying up thousands of potential new jobs.

Elsewhere, the France-based Floatgen project is well under way, so there’s that.

Floating Offshore Wind Turbines On The Way

With offshore lease activity along the Atlantic coast now well in hand, the Trump administration is now turning its attention to the Pacific coast. I know, right? Weird! The Commander-in-Chief* has repeatedly warned against wind turbines but it appears that his warnings have fallen on deaf ears.

Where were we? Oh, right. The Department of the Interior is the agency responsible for issuing leases for offshore energy activity, through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Last fall, BOEM tested the waters for interest in developing Call Areas located off the coast of central and northern California for wind energy.

The comment period closed in January with 199 pages of comments, including submissions from Castle WindEquinor, and other industry stakeholders.

Interestingly, the Call Areas include Humboldt Bay, where the newly minted Redwood Coast Energy Authority is pushing the envelope on offshore wind.

According to Bloomberga total of 14 wind companies answered BOEM’s call.

Onward & Upward For Floating Wind Turbines

Don’t hold your breath. Collectively, the companies foresee 2025 as the earliest date that any of their ideas would take concrete form and start pumping out kilowatt hours.

Meanwhile, let’s circle back to that thing about a federal agency — aka BOEM — hooking up with The Netherlands.

For those of you new to the topic, The Netherlands is one of those tiny spots on the globe that have beaten the US to the offshore wind energy punch (Scotland is another good example).

It looks like the US is tired of playing second fiddle and will settle for sharing first chair. Earlier this month, BOEM announced that “global offshore wind cooperation took a leap forward” with the first ever meeting of the newly minted Global Offshore Wind Regulators Forum.

Hosted by BOEM in New York, the attendees included regulators from nine countries: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands, Norway, Scotland, the United Kingdom and US. Here’s the rundown from BOEM:

…The group discussed many topics, including offshore wind planning, leasing, and oversight. After yesterday’s successful meeting, the forum intends to meet annually, with the next gathering to take place in Denmark in 2020.

Ya don’t say! BOEM also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with The Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation “to further strengthen bilateral cooperation on offshore wind.” Here’s more on that:

Recognizing the important role offshore wind plays in both jurisdictions, the MOU reinforces each country’s commitment to share information, experiences, and best practices regarding offshore wind.

Circling back around to the new Call Areas in the Pacific, that thing about global cooperation is a key issue, considering the starring role that overseas companies have played in snapping up offshore wind leases along the Atlantic coast (with encouragement from the US Department of Energy btw).

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‘Time to give the port a 21st-century tune up’: Harbor looks to sustainable investments

The Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District and the Redwood Coast Energy Authority outlined plans Friday at the Humboldt County Economic Development Summit for infrastructure upgrades on the Samoa peninsula to build a land-based aquafarm and offshore wind energy project with an anticipated completion date of 2025 or 2026 — renewable energy projects that could have a significant positive impact on the county’s workforce development.

Establishing offshore wind energy

Matthew Marshall, executive director of the energy authority, said the agency has teamed with several companies outside of the area to complete a 100- to 150-megawatt project comprised of 10 to 15 wind turbines 20 to 30 miles off the coast of Eureka.

“All of these companies are interested in moving the project forward here in Humboldt,” Marshall said, noting the energy authority is conscious of concerns for wildlife habitat and has been in contact with the Humboldt Fishermen’s Marketing Association to minimize the project’s impact on commercial fishing.

“(The offshore wind energy project) goes from federal waters through state waters onto the land so every possible permitting agency that exists has to say, ‘Yeah, okay, we’re okay with it,’” Marshall added. “And so you know while that makes the permitting process complex, it ensures a high likelihood the end result is going to be something that really addresses these concerns.”

The next steps for the offshore wind energy project involve undergoing the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management leasing process taking place over the next year, according to Marshall. The energy authority is meanwhile entering the second year of a study to determine the dynamics of the project’s connection to the onshore power grid.

“The goal is to have Humboldt Bay be the staging point and potentially not just for our project but for other projects on the West Coast. But … some work needs to be done,” Marshall said.

Constructing an aquafarm

Lynette Mullen, a local project manager whose primary focus is economic development, spoke to the county’s collaboration with Nordic Aquafarms, a producer of land-based aquaculture, to build a self-contained fish farming facility on the site of the defunct pulp mill.

Mullen noted that 90% of the seafood in the U.S. is imported and 50% of that is farmed. With an estimated population growth of 60 to 80 million people over the next 30 years, Mullen said, we must manage and maintain existing fisheries resources, scale up aquaculture to meet the demands of growth — with which the wild fishing industry cannot keep up — and address environmental concerns with strict standards.

“I mean this is an economic development project like we haven’t seen here in years and years, so it’s very exciting,” said Mullen, who assured the public that the fully contained factory fish farm, equipped with its own wastewater treatment facility, will raise traceable product, from egg to full-grown fish, without antibiotics and without the threat of sea lice.

Mullen was enthusiastic about the “synergies with academic institutions” in the area, not only for research but for workforce development. The project will result in 80 direct jobs, not including the workforce development required for construction and engineering as well as what will be required to move product once farmed.

Nordic Aquafarms, which staked out the area for its clean water, is in a “due diligence” process now, Mullen said.

“It’s been really great to work with (Nordic) because they’re very sincere in wanting to understand the community and be transparent about every step of the process,” said Mullen.

Rebuilding port infrastructure

Larry Oetker, executive director of the harbor district, concluded the panel with a discussion of plans for the overhaul of the port space necessary for housing the aquafarm facility and for facilitating the offshore wind energy project — an initiative with an estimated cost of $400 million.

He began by highlighting the advantages of the Humboldt Bay port system, comprised of 1,000 acres of coastal-dependent industrial lands, much of which is “vacant” and “underutilized,” and which is only three hours away from access to a web of national highways.

“We’re a world-class port,” Oetker began. “A lot of times, we don’t think about it being a world-class port, but we are.”

Much of the development the harbor district is aiming for hinges on Samoa’s “renovation and expansion,” said Oetker, who reported the town is ready to subdivide all existing homes as part of a Coastal Commission-approved “master plan” for updated infrastructure: new sewer, water and fire lines; a new business park; and a “brand-new” wastewater treatment plant on the peninsula. Oetker said there can be no new development without these infrastructure upgrades.

He referred to what the harbor district calls “Redwood Marine Terminal 1” — the first dock on the left past the Samoa bridge — as the site of the wind energy project. The “Redwood Marine Terminal 2” is the site of the old pulp mill that will be leased to Nordic Aquafarms. Oetker noted the old mill site is ideal for the aquafarm because it already has an ocean-drainage system in place that is well-suited to the mechanics of fish farming.

“The assets on this place are just amazing and they’re tailor-made for the aquaculture industry,” he said.

Nordic will be responsible for and pick up the costs of decontaminating the mill grounds, including the demolition of the tall buildings and smokestacks on the site. The district is looking to build “aquaculture clusters” on these sites, which will currently house 22 tenants, or coastal dependent business operations such as Nordic, Pacific Flake, Taylor Seafood, among others.

According to Oetker, the offshore wind energy project alone would produce “14,000 direct construction and operation jobs” and generate “$20 to $50 billion in gross domestic product for the state from construction, operations and functions.”

As for the projected $400 million price tag on port upgrades, Oetker and Mullen both referred to it as an “investment” that, Oetker said, creates a “significant tax base for our community.”

“Our aging infrastructure is in severe decline and we need to attract clean, modern industry that’s going to be here for the next 20, 30, 50 years,” Oetker said, ending his presentation with an injunction: “It’s time to give the port a 21st-century tune up!”

What’s next

The panel is confident in the proposed projects — as sources of revenue for the county, as methods to build a strong and sustainable workforce comprised of partnerships between developers and local businesses as well as area academic institutions, and as a way to ultimately reduce the county’s carbon footprint. In the meantime, public involvement is indispensable.

In terms of impacts on the commercial fishing industry, which was a concern voiced during public comment, the panel agreed that it would be minimal.

“With these kinds of scales … we can actually improve the industry and give (fishermen) access to markets that they currently don’t have because they’re too diversified,” said Oetker.

Mullen reiterated that the aquafarm project will not displace the wild fishing industry; instead it will displace the farming culture.

“(Nordic) is not looking to compete with the wild-caught salmon market,” she said, adding the aim is to build “aquaculture clusters focused on farming.”

Rob Peach can be reached at 707-441-0503. 

 

‘Time to give the port a 21st-century tune up’: Harbor looks to sustainable investments, by Robert Peach, The Times Standard, April 20, 2019.

Power Resources Manager opening at Redwood Coast Energy Authority

Redwood Coast Energy Authority (RCEA) in Eureka, California is seeking a Power Resources Manager.

About RCEA:

Redwood Coast Energy Authority launched its community choice energy (CCE) program in 2017, with a goal of 100% local renewable electricity by 2030. The program enjoys a 93% participation rate in its Humboldt County, CA service area, including some 60,000 homes and businesses. In March 2019, our Board of Directors adopted an accelerated goal of 100%
clean and renewable electricity by 2025. State policy calls for electricity providers to increase their renewable portfolios each year and, beginning in the near future, to procure a large portion
of this renewable energy under long-term contracts. These local and state policy drivers will require RCEA to rapidly expand its renewable energy procurement, while keeping electricity
affordable for Humboldt County energy users. We are looking for a motivated, experienced, and knowledgeable power resources manager to help meet this challenge.

The Position:
This Manager/Senior Manager role is focused on wholesale power procurement and the associated regulatory compliance activities supporting our CCE program.

RCEA is most interested in candidates experienced with:
• Development, negotiation, and management of long-term power purchase agreements
• Integrated resource planning
• Working with the California Independent System Operator or other balancing authority, including settlement processes and new resource interconnection
• Working with the Western Renewable Energy Generation Information System and retiring renewable energy certificates
• Data analysis, computer programming, and spreadsheet applications such as Microsoft Excel at an advanced skill level
• Load forecasting and aggregation and analysis of historic load data
• Short-term, day-ahead, and real-time power markets
• Issuance and administration of requests for proposals and requests for offers, and evaluation of responses from vendors
• Compliance with regulations promulgated by the California Public Utilities Commission, the California Energy Commission, and the California Air Resources Board
• Monitoring, reporting on, and participating in regulatory proceedings at the California Public Utilities Commission and other public agencies

For the whole job description and application, please click here.