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The West Coast Energy Project

Autumn Marsh



The climate crisis is putting organizations, advocates, and communities under increased pressure to move towards renewable energy as much as possible and as soon as possible. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has an ambitious plan to alter energy production along the entire West Coast by establishing floating wind farms. If things go well, their plan will expand to open waters all over the country to establish even more renewable energy sites.

UN Climate Action discusses how electricity production is one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions. Clean energy sources currently contribute approximately 29% of the energy that’s utilized. This means most electricity is generated by burning fossil fuels. Cal Matters on Humboldt claims that the NREL wind farms can be capable of generating 25 gigawatts of electricity by 2045, providing energy to over 25 million homes and 13% of the state’s power supply. That's 25 million homes that won’t be relying on fossil fuels for their power based on these wind turbines alone. This project is going to require a lot of labor to get going and maintain, so a lot of new jobs will open to work on the necessary port infrastructure that the off-coast wind farms will require. The Office of Energy Efficiency has found that wind power-related jobs already support over 100,000 Americans, with the labor market for it only increasing as more wind plants are created. The Office of Energy Efficiency also claims that the already existing wind turbines are helping America to prevent 336 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. That’s a major decrease in the emissions being produced.

There are significant hurdles to establishing these wind farms off the California Coast. The two most substantial are the costs and infrastructure needed for docks to be able to support the building and sustaining of these farms. NREL is estimating a 5 billion dollar investment for California and a 25 GW goal and a total of between 11-19 billion dollar investment to get the whole West Coast to meet the 55 GW goal by 2045. A large sum of that money would be going towards upgrading or establishing the necessary port infrastructure to integrate the off-coast wind farms adequately. Cal Matters on the Central Coast expresses concern about the unknowns that will come for marine life, with the Central Coast having one of the rarest marine conditions in the world. Additionally, there is far more public backlash from residents on the Central Coast concerning the impacts it’ll have on the quality of the scenery. Cal Matters on the Central Coast reminds us that these wind turbines will be standing 900 feet above the water. This could impact housing costs and tourism which is a large source of community income in Mocco Bay. However, the closest they will come to the coast distance-wise is 20 miles, in some cases the wind farms will be 60 miles off the coast. They won’t be visible during the day from the shore. The concerns about the scenery and the impact on marine life are creating a halt in the Central Coast moving forward with the necessary construction of the ports that will be needed.

Concerns about what this project means for marine life, boating, tourism, housing costs, and fishing are all important to take into consideration. Unfortunately, the climate crisis and greenhouse gas emissions have been pushed to a point where there isn’t enough time to think about limiting these impacts and finding solutions before these projects get started. To get the homes powered by 2045 and be ready to meet California’s net zero goal by 2050 the construction and preparations need to start right away. Ultimately, the move to renewable energy has to happen either way and this is likely to be one of the most effective and least environmentally impacting approaches.


Citation


  1. United Nations. (n.d.). Generating power. United Nations. https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/climate-solutions/cities-pollution

  2. Cart, J. (2023, October 16). “A massive enterprise”: California’s offshore wind farms are on a fast track. CalMatters. https://calmatters.org/environment/2023/10/california-offshore-wind-humboldt/

  3. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy. (n.d.). Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy. Energy.gov. https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/advantages-and-challenges-wind-energy

  4. West Coast Ports Strategy Study. NREL. (n.d.). https://www.nrel.gov/wind/west-coast-ports.html

  5. Cart, J. (2023b, October 16). “another attempt to industrialize the coast”: California’s Central Coast residents work to stop - or at least slow down - offshore wind. CalMatters. https://calmatters.org/environment/2023/10/california-offshore-wind-central-coast/?series=california-offshore-wind-project




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