As capital costs for offshore wind rapidly decrease and floating platform technologies come online, the northern coast of California is emerging as a promising site for the first offshore wind farm in the eastern Pacific.
The region off Humboldt Bay is of particular interest due to its superior wind resource, existing deep water port, power interconnection capacity, and limited overlap with U.S. military operations.
To assess offshore wind feasibility for the Northern California coast, HSU’s Schatz Energy Research Center is conducting three complementary studies. Wind study #2 is being funded by a $150,000 grant from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), with matching funds from Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). This study will evaluate wind patterns and associated energy generation profiles, estimate transmission upgrades, and assess the economic viability of three wind farm models.
• Potential generation profile—In order to determine how offshore wind generation would align with regional and state energy needs, the Schatz Center will assess daily wind patterns and production capacity within potential lease areas.
• Transmission and interconnection—Large scale wind generation off California’s northern coast would exceed the capacity of the region’s electrical grid. Delivering power to larger load centers in California would require significant upgrades to transmission infrastructure. Upgrades and associated costs will be estimated with collaboration from PG&E.
• Subsea cable transmission analysis—Energy could potentially be transmitted to the San Francisco Bay Area via undersea cable. The study will involve preliminary feasibility analysis for this possibility.
• Economic viability—The economic viability and cost of electricity from three different sized wind farms will be evaluated for the specific context of Humboldt County.
The project will take the first in-depth look at the wind resource and transmission constraints in this region. Previous work has been done to characterize the general wind resource on the North Coast, but the Schatz Center will be assessing project sizes and locations that are relevant to the current area being considered for lease. This project will provide a public report that describes the opportunities for energy generation and the expected costs of transmission upgrades. A final report for this wind study will be delivered to BOEM in May 2020.
With separate funding from California’s Ocean Protection Council and the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research, the Schatz Center is also conducting analyses related to environmental impacts, stakeholder benefits and concerns, seismic hazards, policy and regulation, and other associated topics.