Morro Bay wind farm is the new bullet train to nowhere

June 3, 2021

OPINION by BARRY HANSOM

News outlets breathlessly reported the great news that California and the feds will build a 399 square mile floating wind farm to generate electricity. The farm will be located 17 to 40 miles offshore west and north of Morro Bay, and will generate a whopping 3 Giga Watts (3 GWh) of power – enough to power a million homes.

Politicians and advocates trumpet this progress to California achieving 60% renewable energy production by 2030, and 100% by 2045.

Unfortunately, this is just another big sack of steaming, stinking, rotting BS that politicians hope to sell to Californians. Based on bitter past experience with high speed rail, wildfire management, dam infrastructure maintenance, and gas tax boondoggles, their chances of success seem high.

Meanwhile, plans proceed to decommission Diablo Canyon in 2024 – a plant that produced an average of 44.3 GWh/day in 2019 – that’s 14.8 wind farms, at 400 square miles each, for the greenies among us. Internet searches claim Diablo Canyon provides 10% of California’s daily electricity needs, which further searches list at somewhere between 450 and 800 GWh/day. So this great new 400 square mile wind farm will meet perhaps ½ of 1% of California’s daily energy needs, while the nuclear plant providing 10% of that total will be idled before the wind farm even comes online.

And the wind energy won’t be cheap. Among the various studies done by those tracking generation costs, the Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Panel on Climate Change both agree that nuclear power is among the cheapest, while offshore wild energy is undeniably the most expensive energy source around – about two to – two and a half times as expensive as nuclear, twice as expensive as gas generation, and 30% more expensive than solar.

This makes sense; imagine the costs of building and maintaining a 400 square mile wind farm 20 miles offshore. Seems kind of obvious to everyone but politicians and activists.

And though I’d like to think that Californians won’t fall for this like the utter chumps they’ve been for past disastrous big government projects, history shows that’s not the way to bet.

Barry Hanson has liven in Arroyo Grande since 2014.


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SloCal Yocal

The myopic nature of many of this opinion piece and many of the responses astounds me. Obviously, this support comes from employees (and their friends and families) of the Nuclear Fission industry. This “greenie” prays daily for the safe operation and maintenance of DCNPP fearing the potential Fukishima, Chernobyl, or Three Mile island setting over the hills from our home…not to mention the regret of continually creating waste product which will remain to be hazardous to future generations for thousands of years…all the while the energy created is shipped to other parts of California as we assume the risks! Wind power is not the most economical source at this time, but environmental breakthroughs in Wind Energy are happening all the time. Perhaps an even larger grid of Wind Generators could utilize Diablo decommissioned power transmission infrastructure to provide a piece of the electrical need for California’s insatiable electrical appetite. (God knows we have plenty of offshore wind to drive this energy source…it’s a start, and a move in the right direction, away from the negative externalities of nuclear fission.) Perhaps nuclear fusion will become viable in the future…with a manageable waste factor and nearly inexhaustible deuterium fuel source. Until then, the nuclear option is just too unpredictable.


LeroyMoo

There is no plan to decommission Diablo power transmission infrastructure. The three 500kV lines landing at Diablo are part of the Path 15 Intertie and must stay. The two 230kV Lines to Diablo are essential in-and-out pass through to north Santa Barbara county loads. I agree Diablo 500kV system is the only single location on the central coast that has conductor rating for 3 gigs of wind. The problem is you have to pick either the 230kV or 500kV at Diablo. You can’t tie into both the 230kV and 500kV at Diablo with 3 gigs of offshore wind, because the 230kv with less impedance will hog the load. That’s why there’s never been Diablo 500kV power transformed and fed into the 230kV at Diablo. Morro Bay’s six 230kV lines and two 115kV lines will only handle ~1.7 gigawatts without significant conductor upgrade and special load shedding protection schemes for a single contingency. Using Morro Bay to land offshore cables means replacing 50 year old towers 90 miles toward Coalinga and half that to Carrizo and either double bundling conductor and insulators or thicker conductor. Similar to the upgraded conductor and new shared towers for the two 230kV lines from Carrizo Solar to Buttonwillow after the two solar plants were built in California Valley. I am a huge advocate for transmission level generation on the Central Coast that follows voltage schedule and thus compensate for inductive loads with VARs. I’m no meteorologists, but I know power and I know the Morro Bay switchyard. Wind blows there from 11am to 3pm. If corporations think they can get more than 4 hours of wind 30 miles offshore then I guess I have to believe those experts. The Transbay cable is good for 400MWs at 200kDC. So, for 3 gigawatts of wind you need 8 undersea cables. Another 8 electrical bays triggers a whole redesign of the Morro Bay 230kV switchyard to a wider breaker-and-a-half design with a 50% bigger footprint. That means space competition with the proposed Vistra batteries that proposed to use the existing bus structures. It is ironic that corporations have been trying to build a 50-75MW wind farm south of Lompoc on land for over 15 years and the environmentalist have thwarted them every step of the way.


SloCal Yocal

Thanks for the insight, LeroyMoo. This is obviously much more complex than just plugging in to an exsting on-shore transmission grid…it’s reassuring to know that capable Electrical Engineer gurus will find the most economical and efficient resolution for bringing the wind generated power on shore, once the system proves out to be an economically viable option!


Robert1

Can’t the greenies just put a fan in front of Salud Carbajal and get that hot wind to make some electricity. This wind farm to nowhere but waisted tax dollars is just another left waste of money.


Jon Tatro

The steel processing and manufacturing of a single wind turbine creates more carbon pollution than it will ever offset in its entire lifespan. Try explaining that to the climate change religion folks and they just want to pretend that it’s ok because it’s “Green”.


kayaknut

Not to mention the turbine blades, they are being buried in huge pits because there currently is no way to recycle them. The blades on ocean turbines wear quicker than on land given the harsher environment. A large pit will have to be dug somewhere in the county to dispose of the blades otherwise they will need to be trucked elsewhere to dispose of them creating even more pollution.


slo-to-load

Man, you crack me up! The county will have to dig a huge pit??? You mean exactly like the “huge pit” they already have at the Cold Canyon landfill that handles 1,650 tons of your trash per day? What did you think happened to all the garbage you create? Think the trash fairy just makes it magically disappear? In the extremely unlikely event that the blades cannot be refurbished, melted down, or recycled and have to be discarded, they will be a minuscule drop in the bucket compared to the rest of the massive pile of garbage created by wasteful county residents like you.


And guess what, Diablo Canyon ALSO has turbine blades which need to be replaced every outage, and unlike wind turbine blades, those need to be buried in special metal lined casks due to the radioactivity, so don’t even start.


slocorruptionhater

Where do you guys get this info? The carbon footprint of a wind turbine is never offset by what it produces in its lifetime? Old wind turbine blades are buried because they can’t be recycled? Hahaha…these are ridiculously wrong statements.


Ricky2

The manufacturing energy for a conventional power plant turbine plus repairs during its lifetime is also negative. And then there’s your truck — pure waste in terms of energy. So what’s your point? Should we all just locomote by foot, hunt with spears, eat what we kill each day, and live in the dark at night? Now, that would be truly energy-saving! But why?


mullyman

This project is a complete waste of money as almost all the green projects proposed by politicians are. Natural gas is clean and in abundant supply so why not try it out more. It’s sort of like the cost of solar for your house instead of paying PG@E you pay the same ea month and it takes 20 yrs or more to break even and then you have to replace the old panels and it starts all over again. Ca has so many you can’t do this laws to save the planet and you go across border to Mexico and they pour everything into the air,land and sea and all that garbage just stays in the sky above them and doesn’t harm the climate ” Right ” We will never get away from fossil fuels for power and have came a long way to cut down on bad emissions but Ca can’t save the world so get these other countries to do something also.


paragon

“Why not try out natural gas?” HA! Natural gas is not new. There is no “try out” because we did try it out, with the Morro Bay power plant in fact! And guess what, it didn’t work out and now the plant has been shut down.


Ricky2

Clearly you know nothing about home solar. Panels are good for 40-50 years, but other things will need replacing before then. Payback at today’s cost is pretty quick.


LovinLosOsos

Wow!! That is a lot of flawed math. I’m not here to support windmills, but most of the math and calculations in this article show that the author has no understanding of energy production. The author is attempting to compare Gigawatts to Gigawatt-hours. They aren’t even the same units.


A 3 Gigawatt windfarm will produce approximately 32 Gigawatt-hours/day. Some days it could produce over 50 Gigawatt-hours in a day. This is weather dependent obviously.


Diablo provides power for 1.4million homes. The wind farm will power a little over 1 million homes.


This wind farm will produce about 7.5% of California’s current demand. The author’s math states 1/2%.


And he misspelled his own name.


It is tough to read through these assertions that are just fabricated by unqualified people.


Please do better.


Again… I am not pro-windmill and I am in favor of continued nuclear power. I just think it is wrong to publish such a flawed analysis that does nothing to support this important discussion factually.


pigsrule

Mentioned this before but no one is talking about the avian killoff. Seafaring birds are killed in mass numbers with offshore windmills. Windmills are inefficient and yes, as the headline infers, another boondoggle to enrich those pukes who control Sacramento.


Michael Stove

USA Today reporting: “Wind turbines kill between 214,000 and 368,000 birds annually — a small fraction compared with the estimated 6.8 million fatalities from collisions with cell and radio towers and the 1.4 billion to 3.7 billion deaths from cats, according to the peer-reviewed study by two federal scientists and the environmental consulting firm West Inc.’We estimate that on an annual basis, less than 0.1% … of songbird and other small passerine species populations in North America perish from collisions with turbines,’ says lead author Wallace Erickson of Wyoming-based West.”


I look forward to all the “bird lovers” comments saying how we need to eliminate cats and cell phone towers.


commonsenseguy

Another selective environmentalist


Michael Stove

Selective? How so?


The basic argument is that fossil fuels have been, and will continue to cause, the wide spread death of animals due to global warming.


Green energy will help slow that down and ultimately stop it.


Yes, some animals will die with Green energy.


But far less than if we do nothing.


Ricky2

How will this enrich anybody in Sacramento? Please explain cause my dense mind can’t see how that works. This would be a totally private project.


Jorge Estrada

Littering our oceans with wind farms to create electricity for on land battery storage that interfaces with the on land power grid and delivery system seems to be an aggressive promotion for jobs. This will not resolve the issue of wasted energy and burden the consumer with generational debt.

If this moves forward, buy the stock, make your profit and waste some more. Non of this will address the real need.


varian08

So you prefer to litter the ocean with drilling platform and oil spill.

Wind energy,combine with solar ,batterie storage, hydroenergy etc will allow or kids to have a healthier life.

Get out, travel,see the world and turn off Fox news


injustice_to_bees

There are so many issues with this opinion piece…I’ll just address the low hanging rottenest fruit; The grievance-ridden list of what-aboutisms.

The author is railing about green energy and its supposed high costs. He then tries to somehow tie wind power to the EFFECTS of climate change? Yes, climate change will impact and even destroy our infrastructure, like dams, if we do not invest in additional protection for that infrastructure. Is he arguing for more money spent to protect against the effects of climate change?

Same for forestry management. Wildfires get worse and we need to blame politicians for….what exactly? Not doing enough to prevent climate change? Which is why we need to stop a wind project? Should we encourage more consumption of gasoline by lowering the gas tax? You are blaming leaders for both the effects of climate change and their attempts to address climate change. Not a good rhetorical look for you, Mr. Hansom.

One other glaring problem. The marketplace has already spoken. Wind & solar are the cheapest form of new energy production. Google it. Its true.

From Bloomberg last year:

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-10-19/wind-solar-are-cheapest-power-source-in-most-places-bnef-says?utm_source=url_link


coyote

There you go, “Google it. It’s true.” – The ultimate source of truth- Google- LOL


Robert1

It was on the internet, There for it is true!


injustice_to_bees

You guys are hilarious. You are posting opinions here…so you have some sort of internet-connected device. How are you forming opinions if you are not reading reputable news sources, online encyclopedias, or better still, actual scientific journals? Not everything is a conspiracy theory and, no, Facebook, Q-Anon and the petrochemical industry are not good sources of info on this topic.


Petrobaron

Climate change didn’t cause the Oroville Dam spillway erosion; deferred maintenance did. Climate change didn’t cause the excessive wildfire damage in CA, abandonment of good forest management practices, and the inability to get permits to continue good brush clearing practices did. CA has the most expensive gas prices in the US due to having the highest gas taxes in the US (which were diverted from road maintenance to pet projects despite guarantees not to), and to the boutique gas blends required by CA government agencies. And climate change didn’t cause the failure of the bullet train; cynical government deception, corruption, and incompetence did. The offshore wind farm will be no different, and will continue CA insistence of having the most expensive, least efficient energy sources currently available.


Michael Stove

You can support green energy initiatives and also dislike government waste and inefficiencies. It is not a either/or argument.


Green energy is coming. US and state government involvement can help it move along.


injustice_to_bees

Here is some science to read. It has a plain language summary that talks about the “atmospheric river”, unusually high elevation of snow melt, and the other nuanced science involved in the unprecedented fast rise in water levels. I do not deny that better spillway maintenance would have helped once the water levels reached the spillway.

https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1029/2020GL088189

So Mr. Petrobaron, do you have a link to petroleum-industry-backed website that has more trustworthy info? Seriously, if you’re going to come here and try to torpedo clean energy…you may want to choose a different user name! ;-)


commonsenseguy

Yeah, Goggle and Bloomberg a provider of fairness and truth. Not!!!!! They’re actually very much the opposite.


Ricky2

Amazing you get downrated for citing Bloomberg!


Adam Trask

“the Nuclear Energy Agency and the International Panel on Climate Change both agree that nuclear power is among the cheapest”


Yes, until there is a problem. It took 12 years and almost $1 billion (1979 value) to clean up Three Mile Island. The Japanese government has estimated total clean up costs at Fukushima to be more than $20 trillion!


That’s not to mention the ultimate cost to store wasted nuclear fuel. And can’t we even put a dollar amount on the damage to the local ocean environment off the coast of Diablo Canyon.