In line with the Biden administration’s focus on expanding offshore wind energy, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is seeking public review and comments on the draft Morro Bay Wind Energy Area (WEA) environmental assessment (EA) by Friday, May 6, 2022. The EA for the Morro Bay WEA “considers potential environmental and socioeconomic effects from issuing offshore wind energy leases and related site characterization and assessment activities.” Written comments may be filed or shared virtually at the April 14 or April 19 meeting.

The Morro Bay WEA covers approximately 376 square miles located 20 miles off the coast of San Luis Obispo County, California. Estimates predict that the Morro Bay WEA could produce up to 3GW of energy, providing power to more than 1 million homes. If realized, the Morro Bay WEA would be a success for the BOEM California Intergovernmental Renewable Energy Task Force, which is actively identifying potential areas in federal waters offshore California that may be suitable for offshore renewable energy development, in collaboration with local, state, federal and tribal governments.

More than 300 individuals participated in BOEM’s EA scoping meetings in December and January, and 1,262 related comments (86 unique submissions and 1,175 form letters) have already been provided.  Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that BOEM will likely get considerable feedback during the current comment period from renewable energy companies, related trade associations, and service and construction providers; local, state, federal and tribal governments; the fishing and shipping industries; non-governmental organizations, notably conservation groups; traditional energy companies; recreation and tourism companies; and other entities with a stake in offshore wind energy production.

Additionally, BOEM is also requesting comments on the WEA’s impact to historic properties, consistent with BOEM’s National Historic Preservation Act Section 106 Programmatic Agreement with California related to offshore wind energy development.

While still in BOEM’s “planning and analysis” phase, stakeholders should plan to provide written or verbal comments before May 6, 2022, especially given the potential for leasing activities later this year and the precedent the Morro Bay WEA is likely to set for wind energy production off the coast of California for years to come.