The Commission is committed to innovative solutions for climate change and the responsible development of renewable energy. A recently updated study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory indicates that areas off the west coast have strong potential for generating large amounts of energy and can help California meets its renewable energy goals. Given the depth of the ocean along the California Coast, floating offshore wind is the most suitable technology to harness this resource. The Commission supports environmentally responsible offshore renewable energy development and is an integral part of making offshore renewable energy a reality in California.
The Commission has received, and staff is evaluating, two applications for floating offshore wind projects in state waters. This webpage provides information about the applications, answers frequently asked questions, displays important data on the environment and human uses, and keeps the public and stakeholders updated as staff processes the applications.
Offshore Wind Applications
Staff is reviewing two offshore wind applications for use of sovereign lands located in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Lompoc and Vandenberg Air Force Base. Both applications are for the construction, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning of floating offshore wind electrical generation. The approximate location of these applications* is shown in Figure 1 and a summary of each application is included in the expanding sections below. It is important to note that once completed, both applications will have to go through a comprehensive Environmental Impact Review pursuant to CEQA before staff brings any application to the Commission for consideration of a lease. A comparison of the main features of the two projects can be found on this table.
* Turbine locations and lease areas shown on this web site are the applicants’ preferred locations but have not been fully vetted through the regulatory process or stakeholder review.
Application Comparison Table
|Topic||CIERCO CADEMO Offshore wind Demonstration Project||IDEOL VAFB Pilot Project
(Vandenberg Air Force Base Pilot Project)
|Applicant||Cierco Projects Corporation||Ideol USA Inc.|
|Application submitted||August 21, 2019||July 26, 2019|
|Scope||Demonstrate two different floating wind base technologies by installing four 12-15 MW floating wind turbines in the area||Install four floating offshore wind turbines with maximum generation capacity of 10MW each|
|Offshore cables||Export cables will transmit electricity from the southernmost turbine (T4) to an onshore connection point. The preferred option for the CADEMO Project is to take the export cables to a landing point west of the boat dock (just south of Point Arguello) and then connected overland (by wood pole) to the grid substation||A static part exporting electricity to the shore and a dynamic part called “Inter-Array cable” (IAC), connecting the static part to each floating wind turbine|
|Onshore||It is anticipated that the onshore substation and control building will be located near to the point of cable landfall (by the directional drill site) on Vandenberg AFB. All required works are standard electricity network works (i.e. the same for any other conventional electrical connections) with existing facilities utilized where possible||An electrical substation would transform the electricity to the interconnection voltage of 138 kV. The Project substation would either be onshore or installed on one of the FWT structures|
|Application status||Complete on July 21, 2020||Incomplete as of November 20, 2020|
|Next Steps||Public Outreach||IDEOL to provide additional information towards Application completeness|
CADEMO Demonstration Project
Applicant: Cierco Projects Corporation
Application submitted: August 21, 2019
Application status: Complete on July 21, 2020
Scope: Demonstrate two different floating wind base technologies by installing four 12-15 MW floating wind turbines in the area
Next steps: Public Outreach
CIERCO Corporation (CIERCO) is a renewable energy development company based in Palm Springs, California that has floating wind project activities in the United Kingdom. In August 2019, CIERCO applied to the Commission for a lease to develop an offshore wind demonstration project in state waters west of Vandenberg air force base in Lompoc, Santa Barbara County, California. The CADEMO project would consist of the installation and operation of four floating offshore wind turbines that would be moored to the seafloor, the nearest of which will be 2.5 nautical miles from shore. Each turbine will be capable of producing 12–15 megawatts (MW) of renewable electricity, for a maximum of 60 MW. The turbines would be linked to one another to form one communication and transmission cable, which would extend from the southernmost turbine be buried and make landfall just south of Point Arguello on the Vandenberg Air Force Base. From there, the electricity generated by the turbines would continue via an overhead line to the Surf substation (shown in the figure above).
The proposal is intended to be a demonstration project, therefore the CADEMO project focuses on testing existing engineering concepts for the floating foundations of the wind turbines. Each turbine will be supported by a platform base floating beneath the surface, which is more feasible than fixed-bottom foundations off the coast of California due to the deeper west coast nearshore waters. The floating substructures of the turbines have mooring systems that anchor them to the seabed. There are four main concepts for the floating foundations: spar, semi-submersible, barge, and tension leg platform. The CADEMO demonstration project will test the barge and tension leg platform technologies.
CIERCO has committed to establishing a fund for the full decommissioning of the CADEMO project’s infrastructure and onshore overhead power lines at the end of the demonstration period.
Ideol USA Vandenberg Air Force Pilot Project
Applicant: Ideol USA Inc.
Application submitted: July 26, 2019
Application status: Incomplete as of November 20, 2020
Scope: Install four floating offshore wind turbines with a maximum generation capacity of 10MW each
Next steps: IDEOL to provide additional information towards Application completeness
Ideol USA Inc. (IDEOL) is a renewable energy development company specializing in floating offshore wind technology and based in San Francisco, California. Since 2010, IDEOL has been involved in engineering floating foundations in France for offshore wind and, in July 2019, IDEOL applied for a lease to develop an offshore wind pilot project in California state waters near the Lompoc coast and Vandenberg Air Force Base. The project would involve construction, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning of a floating offshore wind electrical generation pilot project consisting of up to four 10 megawatt (MW) floating wind turbines capable of generating up to 40 MW of renewable energy. This energy will be available to serve the Vandenberg Air Force Base and other California customers. The total lease area IDEOL is requesting for the floating turbines is approximately 6.2 square miles.
The system components would consist of floating foundations, mooring lines, turbine structures, inter-array electrical cabling, a submarine electrical delivery cable, and one substation. Each turbine would be supported by a floating foundation, in this case, a semi-submersible concrete barge, which in turn will be moored to the seabed. An inter-array of electrical cabling will connect the four floating wind turbines to a substation, converting the electricity generated from the turbines into a usable voltage for the grid. The electricity is exported from the floating turbine lease area via a static cable running along the seabed to shore. IDEOL is exploring three options for the static cabling: using the existing submarine cable from Platform Irene to shore, installing a new electrical cable through the existing pipeline that connects Platform Irene to shore, or installing a new submarine cable, either adjacent to the existing infrastructure or along a new route. The cable will connect to the regional electric grid at the PG&E 138 kilovolt (kV) Surf Substation.
IDEOL has researched all California harbors and port infrastructure to select an appropriate construction site for the project’s infrastructure and concluded that:
- The concrete floating foundations could be built and launched in at least five port construction sites, with two being immediately suitable without any upgrades.
- Four sites are suitable for wind turbine assembly.
- Eight harbors can store mooring lines and host bases for operation and maintenance.
Construction activities at the selected port would require coordination with port authorities and may be subject to additional authorization and CEQA analysis.
If a lease is issued and the project proves successful, IDEOL may seek to extend the lease and repower the project at the end of the lease term, however at the end of any final lease term everything would be decommissioned, removed from the site, and repurposed or recycled. Repurposing the floating turbines and foundations would involve transport via vessel towing. Recycling the floating turbines would occur in port facilities.
Outreach & Environmental Review Process
Staff has determined that using a combination of an “early public consultation” scoping approach with some preliminary project analysis (similar to an Initial Study) is the best approach to the environmental review for these two projects. This preliminary environmental assessment is intended to provide preliminary insight on affected resources to help guide early public input on the Notice of Preparation (NOP) and scoping process, which is a precursor to preparing an Environmental Impact Report (EIR). Considering the extensive resource requirements of the EIR process, this expanded scoping and public outreach approach will help the Commission develop the appropriate project scope and analysis, and generate ideas for project alternatives, which will increase transparency and public participation as compared to a typical CEQA EIR process.
This approach will help with all the following components:
- Gain early awareness and participation with the upcoming EIR process with key stakeholders and the public
- Advancing the discussion of the policy / science / impacts / benefits of the projects
- Enhancing transparency
- Education about the project specifics and resource impacts for stakeholders and decision-makers
- Gain additional information from early public input to provide a more informed NOP scoping process and maximize a greater range of public input for the preparation of an EIR.
Sequence of Commission Process for Environmental Review
- Initiate Tribal Outreach and Consultation: Consistent with AB 52 and our Tribal Consultation Policy, staff will initiate tribal outreach using the list of culturally-affiliated Tribes from the Native American Heritage Commission, and initiate government to government consultation with Tribes who have requested notification. Tribal outreach will occur concurrently with the early public consultation / scoping process.
- Environmental Justice: Consistent with our Environmental Justice Policy, staff will prepare an Environmental Justice Checklist and initiate outreach to environmental justice communities and organizations. This outreach will occur concurrently with the early public consultation / scoping process.
- Early Public Consultation and Scoping Document: Staff will prepare the early public consultation and scoping document, along with a preliminary assessment of environmental impact considerations. This effort will be guided by the Appendix G Environmental Checklist of the CEQA guidelines.
- Commission Approval for Statement of Interest for Environmental Consultant and NOP: Staff will seek the services of an environmental consultant to assist with the preparation of an EIR by requesting that the Commission authorize staff to advertise and then execute a contract for those services with a qualified bidder. Staff will also prepare the NOP that will be circulated for 30 days for agency and public review and hold a public meeting during the comment period.
- Draft EIR: Staff, along with the environmental consultant team, will prepare a Draft EIR that will be circulated for a minimum 60-day public comment period. Staff will hold at least one public meeting to receive comments on the Draft EIR.
- Final EIR: After the circulation of the Draft EIR, staff will prepare a Final EIR that will include responses to comments. The Final EIR will be prepared and circulated at least 30 days before the Commission considers whether to certify the Final EIR and act on a project at a public meeting.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is offshore wind important in California?
The Commission intends to be a leader in California’s transition to a clean energy future. As such, the Commission looks forward to working in partnership to figure out the best path forward to reduce the reliance on fossil fuels, taking action to combat climate change, and ensuring that our environment and economy can thrive together through a thoughtful, comprehensive, and just transition. Meeting California’s climate goals (SB 32, 2016 and SB 100, 2018) requires focused action to quickly transform the state’s energy system away from fuels that generate greenhouse gases. California needs to commit to the development of energy storage and a diverse range of renewable energy, including offshore wind. A recently updated study by National Renewable Energy Laboratory indicates that areas off the West Coast have strong potential for generating large amounts of energy. That study also found that the hours when offshore wind energy would be generated most complement those of solar power in California and can play a major role in helping California meets its renewable energy goals. Given the depth of the ocean along the California coast, floating offshore wind is the most suitable technology to harness this resource.
The Public Trust Doctrine provides that tide and submerged lands and the beds of lakes, streams, and other navigable waterways, are to be held in trust by the state for the benefit of the people of California. The Commission is dedicated to safeguarding and promoting the public’s access rights to waterways and the coastline.
What is the CEQA Process?
The Commission is the lead agency for the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and will prepare one Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for CIERCO and Ideol’s proposed wind demonstration projects. Staff will develop a separate early consultation and scoping document for both projects that will include a preliminary environmental assessment of affected resources. Staff will route a notice through the State Clearinghouse and the public will have 30-days (or potentially longer) to provide public comment on this document. Then, staff will prepare a staff report and the Commission will consider, at a public meeting, whether to hire an environmental consultant to prepare an EIR. If the Commission approves, staff will prepare a Notice of Preparation (NOP) to solicit further public input on the information gathered during the previous scoping and consultation process. Staff will route the NOP through the State Clearinghouse, provide a minimum 30-day public comment period, and convene a public meeting to gather comments for the EIR. Staff will then prepare a draft EIR that will include a minimum 60-day public comment period. Staff will also convene a public meeting to gather comments on the draft EIR. The last step is for the Commission to hold a public meeting to consider whether to certify the final EIR.
How is this different than the BOEM call area process?
Staff is evaluating two applications for floating offshore wind projects in state waters near Vandenberg Air Force Base. These applications are completely independent of the activities within federal waters, which are managed by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).
In October 2018, BOEM published a Call for Information and Nominations to obtain proposals from companies interested in commercial wind energy leases within certain offshore areas off Central and Northern California. There are three call areas. One is in Northern California (Humboldt Call area) and two are in Central California (Morro Bay and Diablo Canyon call areas). BOEM works closely with states regarding offshore energy development and coordinates federal-state task forces. One way that BOEM coordinates planning for potential offshore renewable energy leasing is through the BOEM California Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force, a partnership of state, local, and federally recognized tribal governments and federal agencies. The task force serves as a forum to discuss stakeholder issues and concerns; exchange data and information about biological and physical resources, ocean uses and priorities; and facilitate early and continual dialogue and collaboration opportunities.
Why is State Lands involved in this process?
The Commission is involved because it owns and manages the submerged public lands in California, extending from the mean high-tide line out to 3 nautical miles from shore and because it has received the two applications. Any offshore renewable energy project involving state waters under the Commission’s jurisdiction requires a lease from the Commission.
What other agencies need to issue permits for offshore renewable energy projects?
- Department of Defense (DOD)
- U. S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE)
- Vandenberg Airforce base (VAFB)
- U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
- NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)
- Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE)
- Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)
- California Coastal Commission (CCC)
- Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB)
- California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC)
- California Office of Historic Preservation (SHPO)
- California Coast Guard
- California Department of Fish and Wildlife
- County of Santa Barbara
What does a Complete and Incomplete application mean?
An application is complete when the applicant has provided sufficient information to allow staff to locate and describe the nature and extent of the state land or resource, determine fair rental value, identify the level and scope of CEQA review, and determine whether the use is in the best interest of the state.
An application will remain incomplete if the information needed for staff to make one or more of the above determinations is missing or insufficient.
Even though an application may be deemed complete, additional information is often required before a Commission action to supplement, amplify, or clarify information already received.
What other states have permitted offshore renewable energy development?
- North Carolina
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
Supervising Mineral Resources Engineer
Shahed Meshkati | 562.590.5401
Marine Mammals & Sea Turtles
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