A Northern California port intended as a major staging area for offshore wind development received a $10.5 million grant Wednesday from the California Energy Commission (CEC) to begin work on upgrading its facilities.
The Port of Humboldt Bay is slated to serve the 1.6 GW Humboldt Wind Energy Area. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management designated Humboldt as one of two California coastal regions for offshore wind development; the other is in Central California near Morro Bay. Leases for both areas are expected to be auctioned this fall.
The funds will help the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District revitalize the historic timber port on the state’s Redwood Coast, beginning with preliminary engineering and design work. The money will also be used to attract matching grants from the federal government.
Eventually, a new marine terminal will be able to handle heavy cargo vessels and floating platforms, the CEC said.
New CEC Commissioner Kourtney Vaccaro lauded the state’s “opportunity to partner with the [harbor district] in their pursuit of revitalizing their port to support the necessary infrastructure for deploying ocean-based clean energy resources that will benefit Californians.”
Humboldt Bay lacks the bridges and other impediments to developing wind ports in larger deep-water harbors, such as San Francisco and San Diego bays.
“Humboldt Bay has the optimal conditions to serve as the primary port for the offshore wind industry for the entire West Coast,” harbor district board president Greg Dale said in a CEC news release. “We are fully dedicated to prepare our port for this remarkable opportunity.”
The funding allocated by the CEC was originally approved as part of the 2021-22 state budget. Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed allocating $45 million for investments in waterfront facilities to support offshore wind in his 2022-23 budget plan, now working its way through the state legislature.
The CEC recently started work on an offshore wind strategic plan to help the state achieve its 100% clean energy goal while maintaining a stable grid. Wind off California tends to pick up in the evening as solar power wanes, a critical time in the state’s struggle to keep the lights on during the clean energy transition.
“Offshore wind is an important part of the state’s clean electricity future, providing critical supply at night to complement our abundant solar resources,” Vaccaro said in the CEC statement.
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