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CALIFORNIAOffshore wind research to continue with data collection


Humboldt State University's Schatz Energy Research Center has wrapped up its webinars on its first set of offshore wind research publications, and the state and federal government are continuing to supply funding to keep that research continuing into the coming years.

"We are keen on having the best available science in all our of decision-making," Necy Sumait, chief of renewable energy in the Pacific region with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said at the final virtual webinar in the series Monday. "Currently, we have about 20 active studies, roughly about $22 million just on the Pacific for offshore renewable energy."

Among the studies are ones documenting the occurrence and distribution of protected whale, dolphin and porpoise species within the California current, and ones mapping the seafloor and site characteristics, she said.

"That data will help us evaluate the structural integrity of any proposed energy projects and real and potential environmental impacts to seafloor habitats," Sumait said.

Feedback from Northern California stakeholders has also led to a study on a black brant over-migration study.

"The study will collect data on overwater migration routes for black brant along the Pacific Coast to understand pathways, timing and fight altitude," Sumait said.

Pacific Northwest National Laboratories also launched a lidar buoy offshore Humboldt Bay, which is equipped with instrumentation that will capture wind speed and direction at multiple heights; air and surface temperature; ocean currents, speeds and directions; wavelengths; and more, Sumait said.

In the spring, she said the buoy will be equipped with an avian-measurement system that will provide 3-D flight data about birds and bats around wind turbines.

Arne Jacobson, director of the Schatz Energy Research Center, said that will be happening all along the California coast and will help determine "the relative risk of offshore wind impacts to sea birds for different locations and turbine heights and compare trade-offs between seabird risk and power generation."

"We expect to have a fair amount more to say over the coming year in this area," Jacobson said.

Congressman Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) reiterated that offshore wind energy has a variety of benefits, such as providing clean renewable energy, creating jobs, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

"So there are lots of reasons to try to make this happen if we can," Huffman said. "But that doesn't mean you don't have to be thoughtful and do it right."

Any project would need to meet "robust standards to prevent negative impacts" to wildlife and the local fishing community, Huffman said, and include an "ample community benefits" package for the North Coast.

"We need to ensure the local tribes, fishermen and other community members continue to be engaged in the development process," Huffman said. "And if we do that, I think this can be a win-win all around."

No project is currently being proposed and the focus of the research is what the impact of potential projects would be on various aspects of the environment, economy, energy supply and community at different scales. Sumait said there will be ample opportunity for the community to contribute input on offshore wind development.

"BOEM has an annual studies development program and it's a two-year planning period," Sumait said. "And we're beginning to formulate the 2022 and '23 studies development plan covering all of the potential areas that would be of interest to BOEM. And so we expect that there will be an open solicitation in early November and so we encourage you to submit ideas for consideration for research in the Pacific (outer continental shelf)."

For more information on the BOEM process, go to To see previous webinars on offshore wind research or to read the research, go to

Sonia Waraich can be reached at 707-441-0506.


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