Pacific Section AAPG Convention

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Identifying And Addressing Environmental Effects And User Conflicts For Offshore Wind On The West Coast


Development of offshore wind along the US coastlines is under development as an addition to “all of the above” approach to the national energy portfolio. Offshore wind turbines take advantage of strong and consistent winds, and potentially avoid many of the stakeholder concerns that are faced by the development of land-based wind. Off the west coast of the US, the continental shelf drops rapidly, eliminating the potential for large-scale development of seabed-mounted turbines such as those that are under development in the Atlantic. Floating designs for wind turbines are advancing in the US and abroad, and appear well suited for this coastline. As these new wind capture technologies progress, the ability to test and deploy offshore wind farms must develop assessments of potential environmental effects and stakeholder conflicts that may arise. Following deployment, robust monitoring programs will be needed to determine whether deleterious effects are noted, and to provide guidance for future development. The objectives of this paper are: to examine the key environmental and user challenges facing offshore wind development along the west coast; to set priorities among all potential interactions between offshore wind development and the environment; and to propose methodologies for accelerating the development of offshore wind farms. Determining key environmental concerns of offshore wind requires knowledge of the biology and ecosystem interactions between living resources such as seabirds, marine animals, fish, and the habitats that support them, with specific aspects of wind towers and turbines, power cables, mooring lines and other portions of a wind system. These interactions must be examined throughout all phases of a wind project: construction/installation, operation, maintenance and decommissioning. Regulatory requirements and local ordinances play a key role in determining what data must be collected prior to installation, as well as monitoring needs throughout the life of the project. The presentation will include a brief descriptions of two research projects: a site suitability analysis for offshore wind in California, and the initial steps in developing the west coast's first offshore wind farm.