United States’ First Floating Wind Farm Could Be Coming to Northern California

Mike Schuler
Total Views: 57
April 3, 2018

A Principle Power WindFloat prototype is towed to its location 5 km offshore of Cabo da Roca, Portugal in October 2011. Photo: Principle Power

An offshore wind farm proposed for off the coast of Northern California could become the first in the United States to use floating wind turbines.

On Tuesday, the Redwood Coast Energy Authority, a local agency responsible sustainable energy initiatives in parts of northern California, announced it has selected a consortium of companies to enter into a public-private partnership to pursue the development of a 100-150 megawatts offshore wind energy project off the coast.

The consortium, made up of Principle Power Inc., EDPR Offshore North America LLC, Aker Solutions Inc., H. T. Harvey & Associates, and Herrera Environmental Consultants, was one of the six respondents to the Request for Qualifications (RFQ) issued by the RCEA on February 1st, 2018.

“We have been very impressed and humbled by the respondents and the quality of the responses we received for this RFQ. Large development companies and energy players based in Europe and the US responded to the RFQ which helps confirm the attractiveness of Humboldt County as the potential starting point for an entire new industry,” said Matthew Marshall, Executive Director of the RCEA.

The proposed site for the wind farm is located more than 20 miles off the coast of Eureka in Humbolt County, California, where average wind speeds are more than ten meters per second. The wind farm would utilize Principle Power’s WindFloat technology, a floating turbine foundation that is moored (not fixed) to the seafloor and connected to cables that transport power to shore.  

While the use of floating wind turbines is still relatively new to the wind energy industry, the technology has the potential to open offshore sites further from land and irrespective of water depth, where wind energy power may be more abundant.

Principle Power deployed its first full-scale 2MW prototype off the coast of Portugal in October 2011 under a 5-year pilot project, and it is currently working to scale the technology up to 5 MW and even 8+ MW turbines that are now being developed. The Emeryville, California-based company was acquired by oil and gas specialist Aker Solutions in February.

If built, the RCEA project will not only help pave the way for offshore wind energy in California, but also floating wind technology in the United States, or even across the globe.

“We believe this project can represent a game changer for the industry in the US. The establishment of a public private partnership with a community-based energy provider like RCEA represents a unique opportunity to develop a project with strong foundations from the get-go, and to build a comprehensive launching pad for a successful industry in the West Coast” said Joao Metelo, Principle Power’s President and CEO.

“The project is expected to drive investment in local infrastructure at the Port of Humboldt Bay and other nearby onshore facilities. A strong collaboration with local stakeholders to identify and address needed infrastructure improvements will be led by the project partners. The upcoming offshore wind industry will also require skilled labor and create local jobs and workforce training, thus advantageously positioning Humboldt County as a leading hub for future offshore wind development throughout the West Coast,” the RCEA said in its announcement.

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