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California’s Newest Gold Rush: Floating Offshore Wind

Last year California auctioned off five wind farm lease areas in the northern and central parts of our coast, with winning bids totaling $757 million dollars. The installation of floating wind turbines will help us shift towards clean energy, harnessing some of the ocean breezes that help to drive the productivity of our ocean.

A depiction of floating offshore wind platforms

However, due to our steep continental shelf and extremely deep waters, entirely new technology will be needed. Our wind farms will be among the first in the world to “float” on giant platforms tethered to the seafloor in depths over 1000 ft. They will be connected to each other and land by electrical cables dangling the water column.

CMSF has taken a leadership role in understanding the impacts of floating offshore wind, so that we can minimize harm to marine life. Since much of this technology is untested, and in most cases, not even developed yet, we are working with expert scientists to understand how to reduce potential harm to whales, dolphins, sea birds, bats, seals and sea lions, fish and fisheries as well as our bottom habitats.

Through funding from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), CMSF recently worked with Southall Environmental Associates and others to complete a Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Vulnerability Assessment, which will be released soon. It identifies the species most at risk, the location and timing of this risk and offers information to help design and operate floating wind sustainably. In addition, CMSF is hosting a series of webinars on the knowns and unknowns of marine life impacts from offshore wind farms. Our last summit focused on marine mammals and sea bird impacts, was attended by over 400 interested individuals.

Join us for our upcoming summit in October on impacts to sea turtles and fish. By bringing together the West Coasts’ best scientists, industry, Tribal, NGO and agency partners, CMSF is working to find common ground to help protect our ocean.

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