Reduce fossil fuel impacts, support wind energy

January 17, 2024

Dr. Ray Weymann

Opinion by Dr. Ray Weymann

A Jan. 11 piece in the CalCoastNews by Mr. Robert Sidenberg described opposition to the development of a wind farm off the coast of Morro Bay. It contained some misleading, as well as some factually incorrect, statements which should be pointed out.

Mr. Sidenberg expressed concern over the impact the development of a huge construction facility in Port San Luis would have. Over a year ago the Port of Long Beach initiated a proposal to build the infrastructure for such a facility for the construction and assembly of the turbines which would then be towed to a much smaller maintenance facility on the Central Coast.

Huge infrastructure already exists at the Port of Long Beach. They have recently obtained funds to develop this effort further. It seems highly unlikely that it is  feasible for such a construction facility to be built in Port San Luis.

The image of the turbine accompanying Mr. Sidenberg’s article gives the seriously misleading impression that the turbines would be visually highly obtrusive. In fact, even the nearest ones, 20 miles offshore, would be barely visible.

Mr. Sidenberg correctly notes that the manufacture of the turbines produces greenhouse gases. On this basis he seems to prefers natural gas as an energy source. In fact, a synthesis of many “life cycle” analyses of the total emissions given off from the construction, operation, and decommission of various energy sources for generating electricity shows that natural gas produces 40 times the amount of greenhouse gas emission as wind energy for the same amount of electrical power generated.

He also expresses a view that wind energy is costly and “inefficient” compared to natural gas and nuclear energy. The cost of wind energy continues to fall and is currently about the same as natural gas (and far less volatile) and also far less than for new nuclear facilities, according to a recent study carried out by the Lazard consulting firm.

Concerns are expressed over the environmental impact of the wind farm. Some of these impacts are associated with site evaluations and surveys of the area, while some are associated with ongoing operation of the wind farm. Prior to issuing the leases for the area, BOEM conducted a highly detailed Environmental Assessment and concluded that the environmental impacts associated with the site assessment were minimal and therefore the leases should proceed.

This is, of course, far from the end of the lengthy environmental reviews that will take place and solicitation of input for outlining the scope of such a review has already begun, but final approval of the project will take years and is hardly being rushed.

There will surely be adverse environmental impacts from the operation of the wind farm but it is highly premature to assume that they cannot be dealt with.

The final, and most important, point I wish to make is this: Mr. Sidenberg is hardly alone in insisting that any one of a number of projects for producing relatively clean energy or energy storage be put “somewhere else.” This is true whether it is wind, solar, nuclear energy or battery or compressed-air energy storage. But what is rarely mentioned is that the environmental and human cost of not drastically reducing our dependence on fossil fuels will be enormous, and in some cases, irreversible.

Dr. Ray Weymann, a 20-year resident of Atascadero, is a retired astrophysicist with 40 years experience in teaching and research.

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Mr. Weymann- I am aware that Long Beach is also being considered as the port to support this wind farm project and I agree it is much better option. I am also aware that this project would not be visible from PSL and Diablo Canyon area but it will be visible from Morro Bay and Cambria. My mentioning the size of the structures and visibility was related to PSL being the port of choice. As for the rest of your comments about my article I will just say I stand behind everything I have written. The cost of wind energy is not falling, in fact the opposite is the truth. Wind energy is the most expensive low carbon type of power plant.

The BOEM Environmental Assessment is interesting in that it discusses the various negative impacts to various marine mammals, fishes, etc. but does list them as negligible when they really are not. The sonar that is used during the site surveys does harass, injure and kill some fish and marine mammals.There is research that supports this. NOAA issued an Incidental Harassment Authorization agreement for the Vineyard Wind I project off the coast of Massachusetts that allows a certain number of marine mammals, fish and birds to be injured or killed during the site survey between May 1, 2023 and April 30, 2024. Wonder why they would do that? Also the agreement requires the developers to follow certain mitigation procedures “when practical” to minimize any harassment with the marine life, like slow the boat down to minimize whale strikes or use lower decibel sonar to minimize hearing damage that often results in serious injuries or death to living creatures nearby.

I think you need to dig a little deeper in your research. I admit that you can easily find on the internet stories and articles that may seem to contradict some of these things mentioned here. But you really have to be vigilant these days and follow the Professor Richard Feynman technique when he discovered the cause of the Challenger explosion in 1986. You have to look in places that are not obvious and hard to find. Places the powers that be don’t want you to go.