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Federal support announced for offshore wind energy development in Morro Bay

Trident Winds Morro Bay proposal
Floating turbines may soon harness wind energy about 20 to 30 miles off the coast of Morro Bay.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced a partnership with the federal government May 25 to support California’s efforts to advance offshore wind energy development along the state’s north and central coasts.

The partnership outlines plans to begin developing nearly 400 square miles of ocean off the Central Coast as early as 2022.

Floating turbines would harness wind energy about 20 to 30 miles off the coast and then transfer it for use on shore.

That potential offshore wind farm could bring up to three gigawatts of renewable energy to the state over the next 10 years. With another 1.6 gigawatts potentially being produced at another area identified up north, this could be enough total energy to power 1.6 million homes.

Diablo Canyon Power Plant powers about 1.7 million homes each year.

Morro Bay City Manager Scott Collins said the wind energy is coming at the perfect time to help supplement the plant’s decommissioning. He said it’s one positive step toward combating the effects of climate change.

Collins said the leasing of the site is expected to occur in the next 6 to 12 months and then permitting could take several more years. He said this will allow time to figure out the details.

“Hopefully while that’s occurring, the technology is advancing and improving so that when [the wind turbines] are ready to go out, we’ve figured out the logistics and how it’s all gonna function,” Collins said. “It’s sort of like building the boat as you row.”

John Headding is the Mayor of Morro Bay. He said he has been advocating for offshore wind along California’s coast for the past four years.

Headding said he and other local and state officials are already partnered with industry leaders to get development moving.

“[This is] extremely exciting for us as a community,” Heading said. “There has been an economic study that specifically outlines the potential economic impact that offshore wind could have off of the coast of Morro Bay.”

That Cal Poly study estimates the wind farm would generate 650 living-wage jobs and $262 million in annual economic impact on San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Counties.

Headding said the new wind energy will also complement the development of the 600 megawatt Vistra Energy battery storage facility in Morro Bay.

Rachel Showalter first joined KCBX as an intern from Cal Poly in 2017. During her time in college, she anchored and reported for Mustang News at Cal Poly's radio station, KCPR. After graduating, she took her first job as a Producer at KSBY-TV. She returned to the KCBX team in October 2020, reporting daily for KCBX News until she moved to the Pacific Northwest in July of 2022. Rachel spends her off-days climbing rocks, cooking artichokes and fighting crosswords with friends.