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Repurpose Platform Holly

How to Convert a Major Liability into an Environmental Asset

Photo: courtesy A conceptual rendering of Platform Holly as a wind generator

Once the production wells have been plugged and all necessary environmental cleanup operations have been completed, how can the abandoned Platform Holly offshore structure be repurposed? Mark Weeks (then a Senior Project Engineer with URS Corporation in Goleta) and I co-authored a preliminary conceptual engineering study to consider the possibilities.

The heavy steel production platform structure stands mostly invisible in water just 212 feet deep. The basic idea is to reuse it as the foundation for a standard Siemens-type offshore wind power turbine in the 8 to 10 megawatt class (which could power about 1,500 homes). This general concept includes adapting the existing 8-inch-diameter platform-to-shore oil pipeline as a primary electrical power conduit. It would also repurpose the soon-to-be-abandoned Ellwood oil terminal as the site for an in-line energy storage facility. Combined, they would produce constant-baseload power to the local SoCal Edison grid; we’ve confirmed it has sufficient spare transmission capacity.

This concept is “spot-on conformant” with California’s published goals for promoting clean and renewable offshore wind power generation. In fact, more than half of that future wind-power project already exists at Holly.

The historic offshore wind-power climatic conditions are favorable. Access for on-shore distributed power hookup to the local SCE grid is ideal; at full capacity the completed turbine operation would provide about half of the power needed to operate the entire UCSB campus.

The associated construction, logistical, regulatory, economic, and environmental factors were considered in detail in the early study. There are no nearby neighbors to complain about noise and vibration impacts. The existing valuable marine ecosystems can all be preserved intact. This adaptive-reuse notion is a way to convert what is now a major unfunded California State liability — slated for disruptive offshore structural demolition — into a substantial long-term public financial and environmental asset. It’s all very “do-able” if that project were approved in advance by the political/regulatory powers-that-be and then properly bid out to the private sector.

This adaptive-reuse concept is worth serious exploration by the State Lands Commission, given that there are many tens of millions of dollars of public money at issue. We believe both the environmental and political ramifications are substantial, all in a positive direction.

Robert I. Schwartz, AIA, is president of Schwartz / Robert & Associates, Inc. in Thousand Oaks. He said he and Mark Weeks hope the state will turn its lemons into lemonade with this “semi-original bright idea.”

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