Nobody seems to like this Californian wind power proposal

Along the windswept coast of the Gaviota Coast, near the missile launchers of Vandenberg Space Force Base, lazy breakers claw at the base of sand cliffs and dunes, while further out to sea great white sharks cruise beneath churning whitecaps.

It’s a breathtaking and uniquely Californian vista, a place where pristine headlands overlook the submerged remains of sacred Chumash villages and launch pads fire the nation’s latest and most classified technology into orbit.

But in recent months, this stretch of Santa Barbara County’s coast has become a bitter collision point of multiple national and global imperatives — reducing greenhouse gases that warm the planet, preserving natural habitats, and atonement for injustices committed against Indigenous peoples became.

A plan by private companies to float up to eight wind turbine generators less than three miles offshore has culminated headlong in efforts to designate a vast expanse of sea off the Central Coast as the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary.

The turbine proposal has sparked outrage among conservationists and members of the Northern Chumash tribe, who say the sanctuary is designed to preserve Chumash tribal history and protect the region’s rich biodiversity. Building a network of floating turbines tied to the seabed and connected to each other and to the mainland by electrical cables is an affront to conservation, they say.

Two people are walking on the beach next to a sign

Jessie Altstatt, right, marine biologist and co-chair of conservation for the Santa Barbara Audubon Society, and Kristen Hislop, senior director of the Environmental Defense Center’s marine program, walk along Surf Beach.

(Al Seib / For Time)

Coreopsis flowers

Coreopsis flowers bloom in northern Santa Barbara County.

(Al Seib / For Time)

“I’ve been working day and night to create this tribal shrine for 10 years,” said tribal council chair Violet Sage Walker. “There’s no way windmills will ever flap their wings there.”

The marine sanctuary is the first ever nominated by a Native American tribe and is under review by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Proponents say its approval would help preserve the Chumash’s seafaring heritage while maintaining access for commercial and recreational fishing. By helping to maintain a rich ecosystem, it would also support President Biden’s “30 x 30” goal, or protect 30% of land and sea by 2030.

The nominated property extends along 140 miles of shoreline from an area near Cambria in San Luis Obispo County south to Gaviota Creek in Santa Barbara County and covers 7,670 square miles. It would extend more than 70 miles offshore in some areas and would include shipwrecks, kelp forests, underwater canyons, and a seamount rising more than a mile above the sea floor.

“It will protect marine life and sacred Chumash sites, strengthen Indigenous sites and serve as a model for environmental justice,” said Sage Walker. “It will also change the way the whole world understands us.”

But, Applications have been submitted by Cierco Corp. and Ideol USA to the State Lands Commission for leases to install up to eight floating wind turbines in state waters approximately 2½ miles offshore and within the boundaries of the Chumash Marine Protected Area.

A coyote on the beach

A coyote runs through Surf Beach.

(Al Seib / For Time)

An Allen's hummingbird rests on a branch

An Allen’s hummingbird at the mouth of Ocean Park.

(Al Seib / For Time)

The joint venture’s goals include studying the turbines’ impact on birds, bats, fish, dolphins and federally endangered whales and leatherback turtles, and “launching the burgeoning marine renewable energy sector off the West Coast of the United States.”

Cierco’s proposal, dubbed the CADEMO project, would consist of four 330-foot-tall wind turbines capable of delivering 60 megawatts of renewable energy by 2026 — enough electricity to power 21,500 homes, according to documents filed with the state commission .

Ideol’s part of the project would consist of up to four turbines, which could generate a total of 40 megawatts of power, according to the applications submitted to the state.

Due to the extreme depth of the offshore waters along the west coast, the turbines must be built on floating platforms or concrete barges anchored to the seabed. Power from the wind generators would be delivered to Vandenberg via underground electrical cables.

The data generated by the project could also be used in the development and construction of far larger wind farms being proposed in federal waters about 20 miles off the central and northern coasts of the state, with permits from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, according to the developers, according to the developers.

The federal proposals, backed by Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Biden administration, involve floating 380 wind turbines across a nearly 400-square-mile area of ​​ocean northwest of Morro Bay. If everything goes according to plan, it should be operational by 2032.

“We plan to set up a small demonstration project to generate important information for the larger projects,” said Mikael Jakobsson, Founder and CEO of Cierco.

Jakobsson acknowledged that there was opposition to the proposal. “Even some colleagues in our industry don’t believe this project should happen,” he said. “That’s because it potentially generates environmental impact data that could negatively impact the larger federal water projects.”

In the meantime, neither Vandenberg nor the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management have formally expressed interest in the electrical power or research data that the project would generate. In addition, Cierco and Ideol are not members of Offshore Wind California, a group of developers and technology companies dedicated to the responsible development of offshore wind energy for the state.

That worries tribal leaders, regulators and environmental groups. The proposed marine sanctuary would encompass a delicate transition zone where nutrient-rich upwellings maintain a remarkably diverse aquatic food chain that includes whales, dolphins, sea otters, lobsters and commercial fisheries.

Critics of the wind turbine proposal include tribal leaders, the California Coastal Commission, NOAA, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Assns., the Alliance of Communities for Sustainable Fisheries and a coalition of environmental groups led by Defenders of Wildlife, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Surfrider Foundation, the Sierra Club California, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Environmental Defense Center.

However, the Biden administration announced plans a year ago to accelerate the development of offshore wind farms to generate 30 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2030 – enough to power more than 10 million homes – while saving $230 million. Investing dollars in related port improvements and earning $3 billion in credit available to the offshore wind power industry.

The plan would also create 44,000 jobs and help accelerate our shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

On a recent morning at Lompoc surf beach, a group of conservationists gathered on a hilltop to enjoy the springtime scenery between the Vandenberg prohibition signs. As the Santa Ynez River poured into the coastal waters from a nearby estuary, Anna’s hummingbirds soared above bright yellow giant coreopsis flowers. Snowy plovers, a species of particular concern, explored nest sites and hunted insects and crustaceans at the water’s edge.

Two people on the beach with a camera on a tripod

Jessie Altstatt, left, and Kristen Hislop at Surf Beach.

(Al Seib / For Time)

Jessie Altstatt, marine biologist and co-chair for conservation at the Santa Barbara Audubon Society, grumbled to herself as she peered through binoculars. “It’s ridiculous for wind energy developers to claim they can track the number and species of birds thrown into the sea by turbine blades before they are swept away by currents or devoured by sharks.”

Kristen Hislop, senior director of the Environmental Defense Center’s naval program, wondered aloud, “Can you think of a worse place to install a massive wind farm?”

But not everyone agrees.

Benjamin Ruttenberg, director of coastal marine sciences at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, sees the value of the proposal.

“As a scientist, I am very interested in any data generated by a wind energy project off Vandenberg,” he said. “It is an opportunity to inform offshore energy projects along the entire US West Coast

“Obviously we shouldn’t leave monitoring to the developers or their consultants,” adds Ruttenberg, whose department has been a sponsor of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for the past six years. “Instead, companies should put funds into a trust fund for scientific research.”

Sage Walker suggested there was more at stake.

“Our history has always begun and ended on this coast,” she said. “The developers’ proposal is something new, opportunistic and absurd, but they are pushing it further.”

https://www.latimes.com/environment/story/2022-03-21/nobody-seems-to-like-this-california-wind-power-proposal Nobody seems to like this Californian wind power proposal

Dais Johnston

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