More Information

Cotton Rockwood


Senior Marine Ecologist

Using Available Data and Information to Identify Offshore Wind Energy Areas Off the California Coast

Executive Summary

The purpose of our work with this report was to identify areas that maximize energy generation potential while preserving existing ocean uses and protecting the marine and coastal environments. More specifically, the goal of this phase of the project was to assess and complete a preliminary analysis of the existing spatial data for representing marine species, the marine environment and human uses of the ocean, use key data sets to examine the offshore wind energy areas identified by the Bureau of Ocean Management (BOEM), and identify areas for potential offshore wind energy development that balance impacts and benefits. To do this, we combined data on the spatio-temporal abundance of species, habitats, and human activities in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) off California, Oregon, and Washington with expert-derived information on the likely sensitivity of those components to negative impacts from offshore wind installations. As a next step, Point Blue is collaborating with the technical assistance team at the Patrick J. McGovern Foundation as part of the 2022 global Data to Climate Action Cohort to improve efficiency in adding and processing new data for the siting models, decrease offshore wind energy model and optimization processing times, and design a software deployment workflow that significantly decreases computing costs for large-scale deployment of our siting models. Read on in the full report via link at left.

Key Findings

  • There is significant variation in the quality and availability of distribution data: data for fish and habitats are the poorest and are best for seabirds, although there were still gaps within that group.
  • Calculated impacts on species analyzed were generally higher over the continental shelf than offshore areas.
  • Baleen whales showed the greatest potential for impact among marine mammals and turtle also showed some risk to impact offshore
  • Rockfish showed the most potential impact within the fish analyzed
  • Seamount impact was mostly concentrated offshore, so despite their sparse distribution, impacts to seeps and vents may play an important role for benthic habitat impacts in local areas near and on the shelf
  • Marine non-groundfish and bottom trawl sectors had the highest impact metrics among human uses analyzed
  • Fish and fisheries have elevated predicted impacts in the north while marine mammal and turtle and seabird coastal impacts were elevated toward the south

Key Conclusions

  • We have developed a robust modeling framework that includes many key factors for quantitatively analyzing cumulative adverse impacts and using those to understand trade-offs with offshore wind energy development.
  • There is an exciting opportunity to build on our existing efforts and improve our ability to guide science-based siting of offshore wind installations that meet specific total energy production targets, such as those that will be developed as part of AB 525.
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