Morro Bay is one of the great natural features of California — but also a testament to the state’s history of environmental destruction. The bay features Morro Rock, a beautiful, striking volcanic rock feature that looks like a mini Gibraltar. For centuries, it marked the northern border of villages culturally considered Chumash, and today’s Chumash still hold religious services on top of the rock.
But when Americans came, they quarried a big chunk of the rock, and more recently built a polluting and unsightly power plant right next to it.
Now in the era of renewables, a wind power company wants to put floating turbines offshore, as the San Luis Obispo Tribune reports:
Trident Winds LLC has approached the city of Morro Bay with a proposal to install about 100 floating turbines 15 miles offshore. It’s a 1,000-megawatt project that would produce enough energy to power 150,000 households. The turbines would rise 360 to 400 feet above sea level, would cover about 63 square miles and would be spaced about half-a-mile apart.
The company is negotiating with the city for use of the outfall line at the northeast side of Morro Rock. A transmission cable would run from the wind farm through the pipeline and on to the Morro Bay Power Plant switchyard, which is connected to the state power grid.
Evidently the turbines would be so far offshore you wouldn’t see them from the beach, and the transmission cable would take advantage of the power plant infrastructure. Still, going by the Cape Wind controversy off Cape Cod, and objections to undersea transmission cables in places like Molokai, this may be a tough sell. And I imagine many of the local Chumash won’t be happy with more infrastructure by a sacred rock.
But given the pressures of climate change and the need to transition to clean energy, projects like this one are going to be critical to getting us off fossil fuels. Whether it’s Morro Bay or elsewhere along the coast, we’re going to have to be creative and smart about using the resources we have in a sustainable way. This project is far from complete and studied, but it will be worth watching to see how it progresses.