Feds provide nearly half a billion dollars toward construction of Humboldt Bay marine terminal supporting offshore wind

The $426.7 million grant will help fund construction of a modern, heavy lift marine terminal to support construction and service of offshore wind turbines.|

Plans for a high-tech marine terminal to support the building and operation of offshore wind turbines off the Humboldt County Coast received a boost of nearly half a billion federal dollars Monday.

The $426,719,810 grant for the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Recreation and Conservation District comes through the U.S. Department of Transportation, funded in part by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs act of 2021.

The funding is for construction of the onshore facilities to support ambitious state and federal clean energy goals that call for at least five gigawatts of power to be generated offshore of California by 2030 and 25 gigawatts by 2045. The federal nationwide target is 30 gigawatts by 2030 and 110 by 2050. Depending on the source, one gigawatt can power anywhere from 225,000 to 700,000 homes a year.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management already has awarded provisional leases for offshore wind areas off Morro and Humboldt bays.

A deep water port and properly equipped marine terminal will be needed so components of the massive, 1,000-plus-foot turbine devices can be shipped in, assembled and towed out to federally leased waters to begin transmitting power.

Rob Holmlund, development director for the Humboldt Bay Harbor District, said there’s enough time to meet the 2030 goal, even if Phase 1 construction starts in late 2025 or ‘26 and doesn’t conclude until 2029.

“The great news is this moves us substantially closer to reaching the state’s energy goals,” said Chris Mikkelsen, executive director of the harbor district.

North Coast Congressman Jared Huffman announced the grant in advance of a press conference late Tuesday afternoon with harbor district officials on Woodley Island in Eureka, near the intended site of the marine terminal on the Samoa Peninsula.

“Offshore wind is a key tool for combating climate change while providing the power we need to improve lives and grow the economy,” Huffman, D-San Rafael, said via email. “And we are paving the way here in Humboldt with this first-of-its-kind offshore wind project on the West Coast.”

Huffman said he has been working closely with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management “to ensure we get the most out of this initiative — and it’s on track to include robust community benefits packages honoring labor, tribal, commercial fishing, and community agreements.”

The grant will have to be matched by private investment but goes a long way toward supporting plans to develop a modern, heavy-lift marine terminal to accommodate construction and service dozens of floating wind turbines to be deployed in 206 square miles of federally leased waters 21 miles offshore.

Holmlund said the harbor’s central location and large wharf means it also should be able to serve for assembly of turbines headed to Morro Bay on the Central Coast, in addition to Humboldt, as well as offshore wind areas being leased off Brookings and Coos Bay on the southern Oregon coast.

The exceptional wind power available off the Northern California/South Oregon Coast may mean additional offshore wind areas are designated in the future as well, he said.

“Our terminal project is designed to handle up to 25 megawatt turbines, and we are anticipating that we can manufacture approximately an average of one per week,” Holmlund said.

Two companies have been awarded provisional bids to build and operate the wind-generation units.

Because of the ocean’s steep drop-off along the West Coast, they will need to stand atop tethered, floating platforms rather than being anchored in shallow water, as they are off the East Coast. Three more companies won leases off Morro Bay.

The likely triangular platforms are expected to be larger than the ball field at Oracle Park, with miles of anchoring and transmission lines that need space to be laid out, sufficiently strong cranes to lift and areas where they can be floated and assembled before they’re towed to deeper water.

The project is still in the planning and design phases, with permitting for Phase I expected in 2025 and design completion anticipated a year afterward, though some environmental work could start earlier, Holmlund said.

The plan includes a still-unfunded Phase II that would eventually double the size of the marine terminal, if pursued.

The wind energy companies involved are still pursuing federal environmental review and permitting, as well as planning for transmission infrastructure and buyers for produced energy, but should be poised to begin building and deploying units around the time the marine terminal is finished, anticipated in 2029, Holmlund said.

Mikkelson said the harbor district earlier received about $19.7 million in state and federal grant funds for planning and design, but still needed construction funding to move forward.

“We’re just absolutely thrilled to receive the entire application amount,” he said.

You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan (she/her) at 707-521-5249 or mary.callahan@pressdemocrat.com. On X (Twitter) @MaryCallahanB.

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