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).

Read more

‘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.

Don’t Mess With Cali: Floating Offshore Wind Farm Shapes Up As Trump Clamps Down

Talk about your mega showdowns! The US state of California is determined to push forward into the low carbon economy of the future, and President* Trump is just as determined to pull it back. As if the legal drama doesn’t already register 11 on a scale of 1 to 10, into the fray steps something called the Redwood Coast Energy Authority. This newly formed local energy agency just announced big plans to propel the nation’s first floating offshore wind farm into the waters of the Pacific Ocean.

What Redwood Coast Energy Authority?

Yes, what Redwood Coast Energy Authority, indeed? This little known governmental body is a babe in the clean power woods — it was formed in 2017 — but it is already packing quite a punch.

Technically speaking, RCEA is a Joint Powers Agency made up of Humboldt County, the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District and the cities of Arcata, Blue Lake, Eureka, Ferndale, Fortuna, Rio Dell, and Trinidad.

I know right? Who are all these people? If you never heard of them before, join the club. What we do know is that they love renewables and clean tech:

The purpose of the Energy Authority is to develop and implement sustainable energy initiatives that reduce energy demand, increase energy efficiency, and advance the use of clean, efficient and renewable resources available in the region for the benefit of the Member agencies and their constituents.

That’s just the thought bubble. When you get into the nitty-gritty of what RCEA will actually do, things get mighty interesting. RCEA is not just riding the renewable energy wave. It wants the glory, too. Here’s one of the tasks which it has tasked itself with:

To support research, development, demonstration, innovation, and commercialization of sustainable energy technologies by public and private entities operating in Humboldt County.

And, that’s where the offshore floating wind turbines come in. RCEA is on a mission to transform Humboldt County into an epicenter of wind energy development in California, and to do that it is turning its attention about as far west as you can go in the US.

New Floating Offshore Wind Farm For California …

Wind farms are finally becoming a thing along the US east coast, so if you’re wondering why RCEA is focusing on floating, that’s because the west coast of the US is not a particularly friendly place for conventional wind farms. The continental shelf drops off steeply, so tried-and-true methods for anchoring turbine towers to the ocean floor are impractical.

Floating wind farms are just about the only option. That’s where you tether a floating turbine platform to the ocean floor with, well, tethers, so they don’t float away.

Unfortunately for RCEA, you can’t just order up a floating turbine platform online. In fact, there are none in commercial operation in the US, which explains why the west coast offshore wind industry has been drifting in the doldrums while the east coast industry is taking off like a rocket thanks to its friendlier undersea geography.

This is the part where you say, “but Scotland already has a floating offshore wind farm, why is this so difficult?”

For that matter, why can’t we just reach over and tap France, where an EU consortium is moving full steam ahead with floating offshore wind technology.

Well, it looks like RCEA is on to the next best thing. The agency sent out feelers to the global wind industry in February to see if anybody would be interested in developing a floating offshore wind farm for it as a public-private partnership.

Six responses came back, and it just announced a winner: a renewable energy consortium made up of Principle Power Inc., EDPR Offshore North America LLC, Aker Solutions Inc., H. T. Harvey & Associates, and Herrera Environmental Consultants Inc.

… Eventually! No, really.

This is the part where we usually say, “Errr, don’t hold your breath,” when it comes to cutting edge clean tech, but this project has the potential to move along quickly.

For starters, the consortium brings in the heavy guns. Principle Power, for example, has been on the CleanTechnica radar since 2009, when its floating offshore wind technology won a $750,000 assist from the US Department of Energy.

EDPR bills itself as the fourth-largest wind energy producer on Earth, while H.T. Harvey & Associates and Herrera Environmental Consultants will apply their considerable experience with ecosystem issues.

Then there’s Aker Solutions. The company has already partnered with Principle Power through its deep water oil and gas expertise. Way to pivot, guys!

Speaking of pivoting, one of the principles in Principle Power is Royal Dutch Shell (these guys), so there’s that.

Industry firepower is just one angle. Another advantage is location, location, location:

Humboldt County has natural enabling advantages that make it a prospective stepping stone for the offshore wind energy industry on the West Coast of the US. The wind resource off the Humboldt County coast is the best off California with average wind speeds of more than ten meters per second, inducing expected high capacity performance from wind farms.

If all goes according to plan, the new floating offshore wind farm will take shape around 20 miles off the coast of Eureka, with a capacity of anywhere from 100 to 150 megawatts.

RCEA is already looking at finalizing the partnership agreement within the next several weeks, with an eye on submitting an application for an offshore lease later this spring.

About That Offshore Wind Lease …

If you were wondering when Trump would come into the picture, this is where. The Trump administration has already lit a barn-burner of a legal showdown by challenging California on its authority to set standards related to auto emissions.

Another area of hot contention is offshore oil and gas drilling. In the latest development on that score, California has come up with a plan of its own to block the Trump Administration’s plans for enabling more drilling off its coast — a plan that could be used by other coastal states, too.

The offshore floating wind project just adds more fuel to the fire. Recall that Trump has a well known antipathy toward offshore wind, which goes back to that other renewable energy war he’s been waging in Scotland (long story!), and you can see the potential for the temperature to rise.

Right now the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful fighting force in the world probably has more things on his mind than yanking California’s chain over offshore wind, but don’t be surprised if you see fireworks over the horizon.

Follow me on Twitter.

*As of this writing.

Don’t Mess With Cali: Floating Offshore Wind Farm Shapes Up As Trump Clamps Down, by Tiny Casey, Clean Technica, April 6, 2019.

RCEA: 100% Clean and Renewable Electricity by 2025

EUREKA, CA: The Redwood Coast Energy Authority’s (RCEA) Board of Directors approved two proposals at their March 28 meeting to advance the goals of Humboldt County’s Community Choice Energy program. The first was a resolution targeting a 100% clean and renewable electricity mix for RCEA’s community choice energy program by 2025. The City of Eureka, the City of Arcata, and the County of Humboldt have adopted similar resolutions.

The second was the launch of a Feed-In Tariff Program which offers standardized contract terms and purchase pricing for community-scale renewable energy projects under one megawatt in Humboldt County.

The 100% clean and renewable resolution was recommended by RCEA’s Community Advisory Committee to accelerate RCEA’s previously established renewable energy goals. The new Feed-In Tariff Program will facilitate the construction of new projects to help meet the 2025 target with local solar and other renewable energy generation projects located within the county.

Colin Fiske, the RCEA Community Advisory Committee member who presented the resolution to the committee was relieved, saying, “Adopting this goal clearly shows that RCEA recognizes the urgency of the need to take swift action to tackle the climate crisis. And it’s a significant step toward reflecting the values and priorities of our community in our energy portfolio. That’s the beauty of the Community Choice Energy program.”

According to Michael Winkler, RCEA Board Chair, “RCEA’s accelerated commitment to 100% clean and renewable electricity by 2025 builds on our already strong track record for delivering clean, local, renewable energy at competitive prices and promoting local economic development in Humboldt County.”

Matthew Marshall, RCEA’s Executive Director, added that “One of our central goals is to meet our local energy needs with local renewable resources, and the Feed-In-Tariff Program is a great mechanism to encourage new smaller, community-scale projects as a key element of meeting that goal.”

RCEA’s resolution reaffirms Humboldt County as a leader in going beyond the state of California’s 100 Percent Clean Energy Act of 2018, which requires that eligible renewable energy resources and zero-carbon resources supply 100% of retail sales of electricity by the end of 2045.

In the coming months RCEA staff will conduct a technical analysis and gather public input on the long-term plan to achieve the goals of the resolution while continuing to also increase energy efficiency and conservation and deliver community benefits.

For more information, please contact the Redwood Coast Energy Authority at (707) 269-1700,, or visit Community Choice Energy/Power Sources on our website.


The Redwood Coast Energy Authority is a local government joint powers agency whose members include the County of Humboldt, all local cities, and the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District. The Energy Authority’s purpose is to develop and implement sustainable energy initiatives that reduce energy demand, increase energy efficiency, and advance the use of clean, efficient and renewable resources available in the region.


Nancy Stephenson

Community Strategies Manager  |  Redwood Coast Energy Authority

(707)269.1700 x 352  |

No fossil fuels, no nuclear

Redwood Coast Energy Authority is continuing its plan to make Humboldt County powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2025. The board members of RCEA voted in favor to eliminate all fossil fuels and nuclear power 20 years before the state of California’s requirement for 2045.

“We are so excited you consider this resolution,” Wendy Ring of 350 Humboldt said to RCEA board members. “We are joining over 100 jurisdictions in the country.”

Ring is a member of an organization whose core mission is to keep fossil fuels in the ground and reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Ring said of RCEA’s renewable energy resolution that it’s signaling what kind of power we want to buy and allows for more community input.

“I think this is tremendously important,” Ring said. “This may be a little stone in the water but it casts a big circle.”

RCEA was created in 2003 and is a local government Joint Powers Agency. The members include representatives from the County of Humboldt, the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District and the cities of Arcata, Blue Lake, Eureka, Fortuna, Rio Dell and Trinidad. Their purpose is to “develop and implement sustainable energy initiatives that reduce energy demand, increase energy efficiency, and advance the use of clean, efficient and renewable resources available in the region for the benefit of the Member agencies and their constituents.”

RCEA Executive Director Matthew Marshall said in 2018 the state of California established a policy for renewable energy resources and zero-carbon resources supply called the 100 Percent Clean Energy Act. The plan was to be implemented by 2045 and at their monthly meeting in January RCEA decided to adopt the act by 2025.

“RCEA will develop this strategy and enhance it every so often,” Marshall said. “We align with the county-wide effort toward a climate action plan that city members and the county are participating in.”

Pat Carr of 350 Humboldt is one of these members and is in support for 100 percent renewable energy in Humboldt County.

“RCEA has led a leadership role in recent years for local energy resources,” Carr said.

Part of RCEA’s resolution is considering the different resource mixes and local vs. non-local sources to meet the 100 percent renewable goal. Carr said we are already meeting the goal and that there is plenty of local energy in Humboldt County.

“This resolution is important for our community to think about what is clean energy,” Carr said.

RCEA board member Estelle Fennell agrees with Carr and said there are advantages to local renewable energy and we should have that as the goal.

“I want to stress I want to see as much local as possible,” Fennell said. “I can appreciate local in the resolution and as we move forward I want to see other local projects. We want local businesses and I will support that as long as there is local energy.”

A new renewable-energy project that RCEA is considering is an off-shore wind farm in Humboldt Bay. Last April RCEA entered a multi-year project with CIASO called the Redwood Coast Offshore Wind Project. There are two other potential areas in Morro Bay that could get the project if the lease isn’t granted to Humboldt Bay. This project is still in its early steps with the first study just coming out on the potential feasibility of having a wind farm 20 miles West of Eureka.

Executive Director Matthew Marshall said the other three partners are ready to move forward with the conclusion of the study. Marshall said there is a strong team of companies who do this around the world and are interested in doing it in Humboldt.

“Because it’s shallow you can do work in the bay, don’t need crane systems and operations and can tow with a boat the floating structure in an easier and safer way,” Marshall said. “If the study came back and wasn’t feasible we wouldn’t be moving forward but that isn’t what the study said.”

Not everyone is convinced, though. Community member John Shaffer has worked with renewable energy as an electrician for over 40 years and said he disagreed with the project proposal and RCEA should reconsider. Shaffer said off-shore wind farms are too costly and there hasn’t been any credible feasibility study of off-shore wind in Humboldt.

“I strongly support renewable energy,” Shaffer said. “But when so many better ideas are available I do not support uneconomic ones.”


No fossil fuels, no nuclear, by Tony Wallin, The Lumberjack, April 3, 2019.

Taking a spin on an electric tractor…

With a view of the future?

This past weekend I had the opportunity to visit the ranch of Steve Heckeroth, architect, legendary clean energy pioneer, inventor, former contributing editor for Mother Earth News, and in this instance, creator of the Solectrac electric drive tractor. Steve’s ranch, and e-tractor manufacturing operation, is located along the Mendocino Coast near Albion, California, about two hours northwest of where I live.

My interest in electric tractors is partly personal. After moving to a rural area in Sonoma County in 2009 and finding that perfect place at the end of the lane away from the road noise, we woke up the first few mornings to realize we had not thought about tractor noise. Duh. Being surrounded by small farms, what did we expect? But perhaps with electric tractors now becoming reality, there may be hope for quieter mornings – and assuming they are plugging in to cleaner power, less-polluting farms.

So the first thing I noticed about the e-tractor is how quiet it is. Barely even a buzz or hum. The other thing I noticed immediately was how clean and simple it looked. No black oil, grease, or soot stains as one typically sees on diesel tractors.

One of the interesting things Steve demonstrated was the fact that you can set the tractor to move at a constant, very slow speed, which allows for an excellent seed spreading process. This is something that is difficult for diesels to do. He also explained how electric tractors have an enormous amount of torque, enabling them to tow or push many times their own weight.

There are two main models to choose from, the eUtility and the eFarmer. According to the Solectrac website, the eUtility tractor is designed for vineyards, equestrian centers, livestock operations, hobby farms, etc. It has a 20 kWh onboard battery pack that provides three to eight hours of run time depending on loads. It uses level two (240v) charging and takes about three hours to reach 80% charge, so having two battery packs and switching them out is the way to keep working all day. It accommodates a wide variety of implements on the rear hitch and uses linear electric actuators that replace inefficient hydraulic implements.

Steve Heckeroth on the eFarmer tractor.

The eFarmer is designed for row crop farms and operates at a fraction of the lifetime cost of diesel tractors. Both tractors are zero-emission and quiet with no diesel fuel, hydraulic fluid, engine noise, or exhaust fumes.

Now, yes, clearly these tractors are designed for smaller operations, but the principle is demonstrated successfully and scaling up is a matter of investment. No technological breakthroughs are required.

Another key part of my interest revolves around our work in Community Choice Energy and in the Central Valley. E-tractors will not address the air quality issues of dust kicked up by agricultural activities, but the particulate matter and other toxic air contaminants that result from diesel combustion by farm equipment, an extremely harmful part of the poor air quality in the Central Valley, is indeed something that may be mitigated by this kind of technology. We look forward to helping advance electric farm equipment as we do passenger EVs.

And how might Community Choice agencies (CCAs) play a role? CCAs have successfully demonstrated that they can design a buy-down program for passenger electric vehicles. For CCAs with significant agricultural activity in their service territories, why not do the same for electric farm equipment?

Several other manufacturers including John Deere and Fendt have recently introduced electric tractors, but given that they have a huge market base of long-time diesel customers, it is not clear that they will do much to support their successful adoption.

For more information about the Solectrac electric tractors manufactured right here in California, eager to sell, visit

U.S. states set gigawatt goals for offshore wind

Offshore wind turbines rely on ever longer composite blades — Siemens Gamesa’s 10+ MW turbine blades stretch to 94 meters and GE’s Heliade-X span 107 meters — to generate clean, renewable energy. Three different states recently announced their progress toward gigawatt grids to help combat climate change and fossil fuel jobs loss.


With deep waters and some of the highest wind speeds in the country, California has 112 GW of offshore wind power potential, meaning it could produce 1.5 times as much electricity as the state uses in one year, according to “The California Offshore Wind Project: A Vision for Industry Growth,” a new report from the American Jobs Project in partnership with the Schatz Energy Research Center at Humboldt State University, Pacific Ocean Energy Trust, and BVG Associates.

The report notes that floating offshore wind turbines are a “natural choice” for California, because roughly 95% of the state’s available offshore wind resources are in waters deeper than 60 meters, where turbines with fixed-bottom foundations aren’t feasible.

The report set out a list of key strategies:

  • Set a market acceleration target;
  • Establish a phased approach to workforce development;
  • Align innovation and access to capital with industry needs;
  • Upgrade ports and establishing port innovation districts;
  • Appoint a California offshore wind czar

Through the passage of State Bill 100 in 2018, California is set to achieve 100% clean energy by 2045. “California’s coast offers some of the highest wind resource potential in the country,” says Arne Jacobson, director of the Schatz Energy Research Center. Offshore wind can help California meet this goal and achieve a carbon-free energy future while tapping into rapidly decreasing costs and growing demand for this technology and providing good-paying jobs for workers transitioning from the fossil fuel sector.


New York

Vineyard Wind has proposed a new offshore wind project that could provide up to 1.2 GW of power, enough to deliver emission-free energy for more than 750,000 New York homes. This proposed Liberty Wind project was submitted in response to New York’s recent offshore wind solicitation.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s Nov 2018 solicitation called for at least 0.8 GW of new offshore wind projects for New York, quadrupling the state’s offshore wind target to 9 GW by 2035, up from 2.4 GW by 2030.

Located 85 miles from shore, the 1.2 GW Liberty Wind project would not be visible from any New York shoreline, yet deliver clean power directly to the New York grid via an existing substation on Long Island.

“Liberty Wind will bring clean energy at the lowest price to New York ratepayers, along with substantial economic benefits for the state … ,” says Lars Thaaning Pedersen, CEO of Vineyard Wind. “This is the first leg of a well-designed New York ocean grid for offshore wind …,” adds Ed Krapels, CEO of Anbaric, a partner in Vineyard Wind, which is also currently in the process of permitting and financing its 800 MW Massachusetts offshore wind proposal.


New Jersey

Meanwhile, the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) has released a report detailing its progress toward the state’s offshore wind goals. “We have gone from having no program on the day the governor was inaugurated 55 weeks ago to developing a cutting-edge offshore wind program with a goal of 3.5 GW of offshore wind energy by 2030,” states Joseph L. Fiordaliso, president of the NJBPU.

A key piece of the governor’s clean energy initiatives aimed at combating the effects of climate change, this offshore wind activity includes soliciting bids for the first 1.1 GW of offshore wind and a request by the governor to consider an additional 1.2 GW solicitations in 2020 and 2022 as part of the goal of 3.5 GW by 2030.


U.S. states set gigawatt goals for offshore wind, by Ginger Gardiner, Composite World, February 27, 2019.

ARPA-E Commits $28 Million to Develop Advanced Floating Offshore Wind Turbines

The U.S. Department of Energy’s innovation arm wants to disrupt floating offshore wind turbine technology.

On February 1, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced it was making available $28 million in funding for research projects to develop new technologies for floating offshore wind turbines.

The funding opportunity falls under a new ARPA-E program called ATLANTIS (Aerodynamic Turbines, Lighter and Afloat, with Nautical Technologies and Integrated Servo-control).

“We are trying to find economically attractive solutions for floating offshore wind turbines,” Mario Garcia-Sanz, the ATLANTIS program director, told Greentech Media in an interview.

“The current state of the art for FOWT [floating offshore wind turbines] is too massive and expensive for practical deployment. ATLANTIS seeks to design radically new FOWTs,” the ATLANTIS team wrote in a program briefing.

According to ARPA-E, nearly 60 percent of the United States’ accessible offshore wind resource, estimated at 25 quads annually, is found in waters more than 200 feet deep — beyond the depth at which fixed-foundation turbines are economical.

Last October, GTM reported on projects under development in Portugal and Norway that had tipped the floating offshore wind market closer to commercialization in Europe.

Efforts to deploy floating turbines in the United States, where the technology will be necessary to access strong winds found in deep waters offshore the West Coast, lag behind those in Europe.

Nevertheless, there is activity underway in the United States.

Last April, the Redwood Coast Energy Authority selected a consortium to build an floating offshore wind farm as large as 150 megawatts off the coast of Humboldt County, California. The Castle Wind project proposed for waters in Morro Bay, off California’s Central Coast, would include 100 floating turbines with a total generating capacity of 1,000 megawatts.

Time for an R&D push

An R&D push led by ARPA-E could help researchers and project developers in the United States not only close the gap with competitors in Europe (some of which, like the Germany utility EnBW, are looking to collaborate on floating offshore projects in U.S.), but also drive down costs.

“Funding a serious, near-term R&D effort would help accelerate cost reductions and make the technology feasible on a much larger scale before the end of the decade,” Anthony Logan, a North America wind energy analyst with Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables, said last month during a roundtable discussion on the Green New Deal convened by GTM.

Logan outlined some of the advantages floating projects have over fixed-foundation turbine projects.

“A large, multi-gigawatt build-out of floating [turbines] would provide not only higher capacity factors by opening up sites with higher wind speeds in deep water but also mitigate the lack of geographic diversity that will start to hamper the tightly clustered fixed-bottom offshore wind farm plans on the Atlantic Coast,” he said.

“There’s a question of quayside space availability, but on the surface, floating wind’s ability to build the entire unit in port and tow it out to sea would go a long way to mitigating the need to dance around Jones Act restrictions on installation vessels,” Logan added.

Using control co-design to solve problems

In its guidance to research teams interested in applying for ATLANTIS program funding, ARPA-E encouraged prospective applicants to adopt “control co-design” approaches in their work.

Control co-design brings together interdisciplinary teams of engineers and scientists from the start in the hope that such cross-pollinating collaboration will spur creative thinking.

“The control co-design approach is completely different. You invite all the engineers to work together in a concurrent way to have a new design, a new solution,” said Garcia-Sanz.

Assemble a multi-disciplinary team at the outset, he added, and “you can end up designing the system completely differently.”

Garcia-Sanz said the ATLANTIS program has three research goals: 1) develop “radical” new floating offshore wind turbine designs that maximize the rotor-area-to-weight ratio while maintaining or increasing turbine generation efficiency; 2) build a new generation of computer tools to help simulate and calculate the effectiveness of the new designs; and 3) collect real-world data from existing floating offshore wind turbines to validate new designs.

According to Garcia-Sanz, the current $28 million funding opportunity is the first phase of what the ATLANTIS team hopes is a two-phase program. Phase 1 will run for two years. Applicants have until March 18 to submit concept papers outlining their research proposals.

Funding announcements are expected by the end of 2019.


ARPA-E Commits $28 Million to Develop Advanced Floating Offshore Wind Turbines, by Justin Gerdes, Greentech Media, February 25, 2019.