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Supporters of Offshore Wind Projects Call for $1 Billion Bond to Upgrade Ports

Supporters of Offshore Wind Projects Call for $1 Billion Bond to Upgrade Ports

Wind turbines generate electricity at the first commercial offshore wind farm in the United States, Block Island, near Rhode Island, on July 7, 2022. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

5/6/2024

Updated: 5/6/2024

SACRAMENTO—Representatives from ports across California are joining with lawmakers and business groups to request a $1 billion bond package to facilitate development of ports and related infrastructure to help achieve the state’s offshore wind goals.
The bond proposal is encompassed in Assembly Bill 2208, introduced by a cohort of Democratic Assemblymembers, including Rick Chavez Zbur, Dr. Jim Wood, and Josh Lowenthal.
More than a dozen supporters gathered April 30 for a press conference at the Capitol to voice their support.
With the California Energy Commission proposing to produce 5 gigawatts (GW) of electricity from offshore wind turbines by 2030 and 25 GW by 2045, the coalition is urging legislators to approve the bond plan to redevelop facilities in preparation for the manufacturing, assembling, and transportation of supplies to offshore sites. One GW can power about 750,000 homes for a year.
The bond proposal amounts to a down payment toward the $13 billion needed to complete the projects, according to supporters.
“Without the infrastructure in place, we can’t move forward at all, and that’s why the bond measure is so important,” Mr. Zbur told The Epoch Times.
As electricity rates skyrocket and burden family budgets, with subsidies for climate objectives getting part of the blame, the lawmaker said the new proposal could alleviate some of the costs.
“It’s one of those things that actually makes it more likely that we meet our climate goals and keep rates fair and low,” Mr. Zbur said. “And offshore wind is a cost-effective investment for consumers because the alternatives are much more expensive.”
He stressed the need to spearhead efforts to achieve the state’s goals.
“We will not meet our climate goals if we do not take the steps now to allow offshore wind to move forward,” Mr. Zbur said during the press conference. “Securing the seed money to give our ports is a crucial step that must happen now if we’re going to meet our climate goals that are right around the corner.”
The electrification of manufacturing, automobiles, and the transportation system would require more than twice the amount of electricity produced today, according to the authors.
Proponents noted the need for redesigned facilities to manufacture, construct, and transport the materials needed, including wind turbines with arms so large—they would barely fit in Dodger Stadium—that ports need hundreds of acres of space to assemble them.
“Without the infrastructure in place, we can’t move forward at all," said Assemblyman Rick Chavez Zbur at the  news conference on April 30, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

“Without the infrastructure in place, we can’t move forward at all," said Assemblyman Rick Chavez Zbur at the  news conference on April 30, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

The port of Long Beach is proposing building a 460-acre site for staging, integration, and manufacturing, at an estimated cost of $5.3 billion, according to the port authorities.
In Northern California, the port of Humboldt Bay is proposing redeveloping vacant industrial facilities once used by the timber industry, with the 180-acre site anticipated to cost approximately $1.5 billion.
Independent studies from state and federal agencies found that Humboldt is perfectly positioned to play a significant role in the projects—with Los Angeles/Long Beach the only other location with a suitable environment for staging and integration.
“There are really only places in California that can do this, and Humboldt happens to be in the dead-center of all of the planned offshore wind areas,” Rob Holmlund, director of development for the Humboldt Bay Harbor District, told The Epoch Times. “We’re geographically central, we have the right channel depth, and we have the land available.”
Six other ports across the state are also planning to upgrade their infrastructure to accommodate the projects. Some are relegated to performing specific functions related to manufacturing, as depth of water is a limiting factor for some locations.
Mr. Zbur said California needs to develop the sites if it wants to change the source and amount of energy produced.
“Weaning ourselves off of dirty fossil fuel energy and closing down the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant requires replacing power with clean, renewable energy,” he said. “Offshore wind is a crucial part of the strategy to achieve our goals.”
The idea of shuttering the state’s last nuclear power plant at Diablo Canyon is a point of contention for some critics who argue that nuclear energy is vital to the state’s future.
Assemblyman Mike Gipson said Assembly Bill 2208 "creates a new trajectory" for the state. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Assemblyman Mike Gipson said Assembly Bill 2208 "creates a new trajectory" for the state. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Others pointed to the potential economic benefits the project could provide, as the National Renewable Energy Lab estimates the offshore wind projects will create up to 60,000 jobs in California.
“This is an economic boost to the community,” Assemblyman Mike Gipson said during the press conference. “This turns a corner and creates a new trajectory ... for California.”
Supporters said the projects could prove beneficial for years to come.
“It is a generational opportunity—maybe once in two or three generations—to revitalize an area that has really seen significant economic downturns over the years,” Dr. Wood said during the press conference. “We have large tribal communities who would benefit greatly from these jobs and a workforce that could sorely use the step up.”
He highlighted the need for space to stage materials, maintain, operate, and construct the components required for the projects.
“These are first steps, and we’re not going to give up on this,” Dr. Wood said. “This is just the beginning, but the port infrastructure is foundational, and so many things need to be happening concurrently.”
A fellow lawmaker agreed, reiterating the need to meet the state’s objectives.
“We have incredibly ambitious and incredibly important climate goals,” Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie Norris said during the press conference. “And we have a monumental challenge before us if we are actually going to deliver.”
She said the projects could deliver a more sustainable future for the Golden State.
“We’ve got to take an all-of-the-above approach, and offshore wind is a critical component,” Ms. Petrie Norris said. “We’re talking about making long-term investments, and we’re talking about making decisions today that are going to have impacts for generations to come.”
She likened the move to a Greek proverb that says a society is great when men and women plant trees in whose shade they will never sit.
Another supporter said the collaboration between private and public partners is key to finding the money and momentum needed to complete the project.
“This development cannot be done without significant investment from both the public and private sectors,” Martha Miller, executive director of the California Association of Port Authorities, said during the press conference.
While some critics are skeptical of the projects, citing the novel technology of floating platforms in deep water as untested and pointing to potential concerns for wildlife and the environment, the most recent survey from the Public Policy Institute of California from July 2023 shows that about 83 percent of Californians support the idea of offshore wind—including 70 percent of Republicans and 91 percent of Democrats.
Assemblywoman Dawn Addis speaks in support of a $1 billion offshore-wind infrastructure bond on April 30, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

Assemblywoman Dawn Addis speaks in support of a $1 billion offshore-wind infrastructure bond on April 30, 2024. (Travis Gillmore/The Epoch Times)

One lawmaker said the environmental impact of the project is a priority for the Legislature and is addressed by a bill she introduced earlier this year, Assembly Bill 80.
“That was the point of AB 80 ... and we’re still working on this,” Assemblymember Dawn Addis told The Epoch Times.
Supporters of the proposal say the sites could produce significant quantities of electricity when the sun starts to set, typically a time when the state grid relies on natural gas and nuclear power.
As mandated by the state’s Constitution, AB 2208 will require a two-thirds majority approval by the Legislature, and if ultimately passed and signed by the governor, would need voter approval during the November election to become law.
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Travis Gillmore

Travis Gillmore

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Travis Gillmore is an avid reader and journalism connoisseur based in California covering finance, politics, the State Capitol, and breaking news for The Epoch Times.

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