A review of potential impacts from offshore wind energy leasing activities in the Morro Bay Wind Energy Area found no significant environmental impacts, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announced this week.
The final environmental assessment considered potential impacts of issuing leases for floating wind generation turbines within the 376-square-mile Morro Bay Wind Energy Area located about 20 miles off San Luis Obispo County.
If developed as envisioned, the offshore wind area could provide up to 3 gigawatts of energy to California’s electric grid, or enough to power more than 1 million homes, a BOEM spokeswoman said.
“The completion of our environmental review is an important step forward to advance clean energy development in a responsible manner while promoting economic vitality and well-paying union jobs in Central California,” BOEM Director Amanda Lefton said.
“We will continue to work closely with tribes, state and federal partners, and key stakeholders to ensure any future development avoids or minimizes potential impacts to the ocean and other ocean users in the region,” Lefton said.
Potential environmental consequences considered in the assessment included such site characterization activities as taking core samples and conducting biological, archeological, geological and geophysical surveys.
It also looked at site assessment activities, like installing meteorological buoys, and considered project easements associated with potential leases and related right-of-way grants for subsea cable corridors.
Lefton said the assessment was developed by BOEM working with the state of California, the U.S. Department of Defense, native tribes, ocean users like the fishing industry and coastal communities.
If BOEM decides to conduct a lease sale in the Morro Bay Wind Energy Area, the bureau will develop an environmental impact statement analyzing the specific environmental consequences of the project before approving the construction of any offshore wind energy facilities in the area, she said.
The EIS will be prepared in consultation with tribes, appropriate federal, state and local agencies, stakeholders and the public.
BOEM initially announced its intent to prepare an environmental assessment for the Morro Bay Wind Energy Area in November 2021, then gathered public input on the issues and alternatives to be considered.
The draft environmental assessment was published April 6 this year, initiating a 30-day public comment period.
BOEM also held two virtual public meetings with stakeholders to obtain additional input.