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State grant could revitalize Humboldt Bay with wind energy

Humboldt Bay, the proposed location for the wind energy terminal, is located on the northern peninsula (left)
U.S. Army Corp of Engineers
Humboldt Bay, the proposed location for the wind energy terminal, is located on the northern peninsula (left)

With one of the best wind resources in the world just offshore, Humboldt Bay hopes to transform the region into a renewable energy production hub.

The California Energy Commission awarded $10.5 million in grant funding for preliminary work to renovate a former timber industry space earlier this month.

The funds will help create a new marine terminal and wind turbine manufacturing plant.

Larry Oetker is the director of the Humboldt Bay Harbor district. He says upwards of 4,500 jobs could be created.

“What we’re really working with the community on is: what is the community package that we can get? What are the things that we really bring to help the fishing industry, to help the local Native American tribes, to help ensure that the jobs are filled by local people?”

Oetker wants to work with local schools to ensure that skilled workers are trained and ready for these new manufacturing jobs. He says working with the fishing industry in the bay is vital, saying there are guaranteed to be impacts.

For example, the site under consideration for the new wind turbine facilities is currently used to store fishing equipment. Once installed, the turbines and the power cables leading back to shore can get in the way of fishing boats.

Oetker says by bringing wind energy manufacturing to the region, the bay could position itself as a prime location for other modern, green industries to take root.

Humboldt Bay is the ideal location for offshore wind turbine construction, as the towers need to be built and shipped out to sea fully upright, Oetker says. The foundations themselves can be as large as a baseball field.

The deep navigation channels and lack of bridges in Humboldt bay make it unique among sites in California. Oetker says the turbines wouldn’t even be able to fit underneath the Golden Gate bridge once completed.

The federal government is preparing to issue permits for offshore wind energy just 20 miles from Humboldt bay.

The new terminal could support development of enough wind turbines to power around one-and-a-half million homes, according to the California Energy Commission.

CEC advisor Eli Harland says this development fits into California’s green energy goals. The state is planning to generate 100% carbon-free energy by 2045.

Oetker expects construction of the terminal and manufacturing facilities to begin in 2025. He’s currently estimating a total cost of around a $100 million.

Roman Battaglia is a regional reporter for Jefferson Public Radio. After graduating from Oregon State University, Roman came to JPR as part of the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism in 2019. He then joined Delaware Public Media as a Report For America fellow before returning to the JPR newsroom.