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Offshore wind leases creating a 'gold rush'

Posted at 10:49 PM, Jan 27, 2022

HUMBOLDT, Calif. — Humboldt, California has always relied on its natural resources.

For the last century, it’s been a timber town.

However, beneath the redwood forests, there is a new resource.

“Here on the north coast of California, the offshore wind resources is one of the best in the nation,” said Arnie Jacobson, who runs Schatz Energy Center at Humboldt State University.

He has been studying the potential for wind power in the area.

“That’s what really our goal is, to be, not just for the Humboldt, but to be the West Coast offshore wind port,” said Larry Oetker, the executive director of the Humboldt Bay Harbor Recreation and Conservation District.

Oekter has been gearing up to get the port in Humboldt ready for offshore wind.

The U.S. is moving quickly.

In early January, the Biden administration announced its first offshore wind auction for nearly 500,000 acres of the coast of New York and New Jersey.

An auction for the California coast is likely later this year.

“I think in October, November is when they’re supposed to, the Bureau of Offshore Energy Management is supposed to, have the lease. They’re out for public comment right now,” said Oekter.

But while things are ramping up in Humboldt, and across the country, Oekter wants to make sure things don’t happen too fast for the sleepy Northern California community.

“Is this going to be gold rush? In other words, the industry is going to come in, they want to deploy these all at one time, or are we going to coordinate with our state and federal partners to do a slow steady rollout of renewable energy of offshore wind resources?” Oekter wonders.

The first gold rush helped make California famous, but it came at a cost to the environment and wasn’t equitable for everyone.

For the wind rush, Oekter and Jacobson hope they can avoid the pitfalls of the past.