State and federal officials are engaged in an intensive planning process for the first auction of zones for development of giant wind farms in the Pacific.
But right before the first auction was to be announced, opposition emerged from an unexpected source: the U.S. Navy. After a year and a half of public hearings and outreach by a state-federal task force, the Navy suddenly signaled in August that it would veto the ocean area off San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties that was expected for the first wind farms. What’s more, the Navy claimed the entire offshore zone stretching from Los Angeles north to Big Sur, comprising 36,000 square miles, saying it is needed for military testing and thus is off-limits to wind farms.
State and federal officials are negotiating with the Navy to find a solution. But if the Navy refuses to budge, state officials will need to switch to their designated Plan B — a series of potential areas off Sonoma, Humboldt and Del Norte counties, where the Navy has raised no objections. Although interconnection to the grid would be more difficult in these areas, they would be suitable for initial wind farm projects while negotiations continue farther south.