<b>BLOW POWER:</b> John Reed, who dreams of 103 wind turbines harvesting energy in the Santa Barbara Channel, has formed an organization called <a href=""></a>.

Paul Wellman

BLOW POWER: John Reed, who dreams of 103 wind turbines harvesting energy in the Santa Barbara Channel, has formed an organization called

Wind Power Gains Momentum

Feasibility of Turbines in the Santa Barbara Channel to be Studied

Thursday, September 19, 2013
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When the cash-strapped Spanish company Acciona Energy announced that it was scrapping its plans to develop a wind farm near Lompoc, it looked like any hopes for wind energy in Santa Barbara County were dead in the water. Now, it sounds like one day – albeit far off into the future – wind turbines could be floating on the water.

John Reed, a UCSB-trained engineer who returned to the South Coast five years ago to work for Clipper Windpower – the now-defunct Carpinteria-based manufacturer of wind turbines – has a vision that includes 103 6-megawatt turbines harvesting wind in the Santa Barbara Channel and providing for one third of District 19’s energy needs. But Reed can also do math.

The project, he calculates, will cost $3.7 billion. He shared that figure on an August afternoon with Gary Kravertz, a business consultant who provides free business mentoring through the organization, SCORE. The two were meeting at a State Street coffee shop with a couple other potential business partners. Upon hearing that number, Kravertz did not spit out his coffee or make any other detectable reactions. Instead, he calmly asked Reed to break down his ambitions into discrete steps. This Socratic approach led to the conclusion that Reed needs to fundraise for expenses like airplane tickets so he fundraise for a demonstration project.

However far Reed gets, there’s no denying that the Santa Barbara Channel is hands down one of the most ideal spots on the California coast for harvesting wind energy. Around the Channel Islands, wind continually blows at or well above the seven meters per second that makes a site harvest-worthy.

There is no template for offshore wind development on the West Coast of the United States, let alone in the channel, but unrelated to Reed, a group of UCSB graduate students, along with Santa Barbara-based Infinity Windpower and the Community Environmental Council, will spend the year studying the feasibility of farming wind in the Channel.

According to Luke Feinberg, a master’s student in the Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, he and his peers working on the Calwind project have three goals: to conduct a stakeholder analysis, to outline the permitting pathway for obtaining permission to build wind turbines offshore, and to complete a GIS spatial analysis. The last refers to the fact that the nearshore area is shared by marine protected areas, shipping lines, fishermen, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, for starters. Nobody has yet mapped exactly how the area is divvied up, and where space for turbines could be carved out.

While “you can get stronger and more consistent wind offshore,” according to Megan Birney, who worked at the CEC when interviewed but has since left, “there are several barriers.” Along with the questions of where to run transmission lines, migratory bird patterns, fishing interests, and the military presence, the continental shelf on the Central Coast drops off so sharply and the water depth increases so quickly that it would be impractical to anchor turbines into the ocean floor. Any potential turbines would need to float.

A 2009 study published in the journal Renewable Energy concluded that between 52.8 and 64.9 gigawatts of power — several times over the California’s current total usage — could be generated from floating turbines off the California coast. A more practical estimate for the area, said Birney, is about 10 percent of the county’s usage according to a 2006 report.

Whether Santa Barbarans will ever see turbines pinwheeling on the horizon will depend on whether they want to. The very first step in the Calwind study is to take the temperature of area residents with a survey that just went live. It can be completed at


Independent Discussion Guidelines

Why "albeit far off into the future"?

We've got test floaters in the water right now. In the US, Europe and Japan. We'll see floaters hooked to grids in the next very few years.

This is not rocket science. It's building a floating platform (some oil rigs float), installing marine grade turbines on them, and towing them into place.

You should publish a US wind map for your readers and let them see what excellent wind resources we have off our coasts and over our Great Lakes. And those winds blow a lot during the day, unlike some onshore sites.

A wind farm is a no-trawl, no commercial fishing zone. The underwater structure acts as an artificial reef and the protected area as a fish nursery.

We should at least consider if floating wind farms might be appropriate for already protected zones.

BobWallace (anonymous profile)
September 19, 2013 at 12:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

A wind farm is also a no-transit area. That means no sailing, no trawling, no commercial shipping. Although the channel is 26 miles wide between SB and Santa Cruz Island, it can seem extremely constricted when trying to pick your way through gales and rigs. The addition of a wind farm adds to the hazards of those traversing the channel north/south and east/west.

Commercial shipping has already been largely pushed out of the channel due air quality standards. This resulted in transit bottlenecks in military zones and more overall pollution. (Gotta say though, it's nice not to have to duck ships back in forth to the island.)

Also, much of this area is a Marine Sanctuary. Millions have been spent to restore native birds such as the brown pelican, the bald eagle, and others. Are those successful efforts to be sacrificed? What happens when a floating turbine eventually breaks loose as the much smaller weather bouys sometimes do?

Imagine a huge turbine smacking a rig. Hmm, past and future colliding to annihilate both.

sbsailor (anonymous profile)
September 20, 2013 at 9:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

zero chance of getting off the ground.

lawdy (anonymous profile)
September 20, 2013 at 9:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

native2sb (anonymous profile)
September 20, 2013 at 3:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Just a thought, but I wonder what would happen if on a mass scale people got off the grid by means of solar, wind, or any other alternative means of power. Extend that same thought to growing one's one food, using well water etc. It would be an interesting economic scenario. I'll bet PG&E and Edison would hate it.

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
September 21, 2013 at 5:45 a.m. (Suggest removal)

That's one of the most bizarre things you have ever said dolphinpod.

SpiroTWalker (anonymous profile)
September 21, 2013 at 5:17 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I protest. It will spoil our view of the channel; worse than cruise ships. Might kill seagulls, too. And the vibration may cause dolphins and whales to go off course and pollute the beaches. :-)

JohnLocke (anonymous profile)
September 22, 2013 at 11:01 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I fail to see how this can be anything other than good. Off-the-grid self sufficiency would end monopolies on utility prices and imagine the overall increased production. Of course, vested interests would do whatever they could to prevent such creativity from taking place, and bear in mind that we live in California which while having progressive ideas per alternative power sources, is very hostile toward independent free enterprise outside the realm of crony capitalism.

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
September 23, 2013 at 5:12 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I can also assure you Mr. Locke that the vibrations generated either by sound or through osmosis will not cause us to do the bathroom thing on your pristine shores.

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
September 23, 2013 at 5:14 a.m. (Suggest removal)

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