California’s planning a renewable energy project at a scale never before attempted in the world
The Newsom administration’s path to net-zero carbon emissions runs through one of the state’s poorer, most remote areas.
August 14, 2023
EUREKA, Calif. — A 300-foot tall smokestack from a defunct paper mill looms over the port in Humboldt Bay, a relic of the timber industry that once defined the northwestern corner of California along with the struggling salmon fishing industry and sputtering marijuana trade.
But a gust of optimism has arrived in Humboldt County over plans to develop offshore wind at a depth and scale never before attempted in the world – sparking hope and anxiety in a region that has lived through repeated boom-and-bust cycles and ended up with one of the lower per-capita incomes in the state.
“This is a generational project,” said Jeff Hunerlach, secretary-treasurer of a council of construction unions for Humboldt and neighboring Del Norte County. “I could work 20 years on this project and my kid could work 20 years on this project.”
The offshore wind proposal, driven by the Biden and Newsom administration efforts to dramatically increase renewable energy, would erect dozens of turbines three times the size of that smokestack with blades as long as a football field in an area of the Pacific Ocean nearly 10 times the size of Manhattan.
The turbines, which would be about 20 miles from shore in water up to 2,500 feet deep, are a key part of the state’s plan to generate enough offshore wind energy to power more than 20 million homes.
Getting the turbines to remote Humboldt County and then assembling them would be a significant undertaking – one that would create the need for heavy investment in an area that has seen little for many years.
“It’s a lot of good-paying jobs if we do it right,” said U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael), whose district includes the bay. “This can be part of lifting up the regional economy in a way that is better than anything to come along in decades.”
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By: Wes Venteicher
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