The Biden administration has chosen two sections off the California coast — near Morro Bay and Humboldt County — to build massive wind turbines, which could help the state become carbon neutral by 2045. But coastal waters here are vital to industries like shipping, fishing, and telecommunications. And they sustain delicate marine ecosystems. The U.S. Interior Department is weighing these other interests before the turbines can be built, according to Katy Stech Ferek, Wall Street Journal reporter.
“It'll be a really interesting project for these developers because the shelf drops off so quickly off the West Coast,” she says. “These [turbines] are going to have to be built on floating platforms. … It's been done in Europe, but this is the first time we'll see this technology in the U.S. So it's gonna be a really big engineering feat.”
She explains that the floating platforms must be anchored to the sea floor, and transmission lines will be on top of them to deliver electricity onshore. There are questions about port infrastructure and how to hook up the lines to the power grid.
Plus, it’s unclear how marine and avian life will interact with these turbines, Ferek notes. Environmentalists are concerned about birds flying into the turbines, which is more dangerous than mammals swimming up to them.
Five national marine sanctuaries are located off the California coast, and one more is on the way.
“The Commerce Department is in the process of designating a very large section, very close to the Morro Bay region. And developers are concerned that with that designation coming, can you put … transmission cables through the marine sanctuary? How would it work? Will it block their paths? I mean, it'd be a really large space to go around.”
Meanwhile, commercial fishing groups are worried about losing access to some rich areas to catch seafood.
“We have all these groups that are concerned, they want to protect their interests. And they also recognize that clean power is something that they want. … Everybody is taking that nervous anxiety, and just trying to engage and hoping that Interior will work through their concerns.”