A photo of the TetraSpar floating wind turbine installed offshore in Norway

RWE to start seabed surveys at floating wind site offshore California

Site investigation survey work will soon start at RWE’s floating wind project site off the coast of Northern California, where the Germany-based offshore wind developer plans to build its first commercial-scale floating offshore wind farm, Canopy.

RWE will be performing initial site investigation surveys during 2024 and 2025, with the first activities beginning in June 2024.

The work will involve mapping the seafloor so the best locations for the wind turbines, anchors and electric cables can be assessed. The surveys will also provide data that will help better understand biodiversity, habitats, and other environmental factors to ensure responsible planning and design that minimizes the impact on ocean ecosystems, according to the developer.

The Canopy project site, for which RWE secured development rights in the U.S. federal offshore lease auction in 2022, is located 45 kilometers (28 miles) off the coast of Humboldt County and is planned to house a 1.6 GW floating wind farm which could power 640,000 households.

RWE has hired Norway-based subsea service provider Argeo to perform the site investigation work for Canopy using an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) to conduct the surveys.

Using AUVs as survey platforms significantly reduces the potential for entanglement of fishing gear and the sensors carried by the AUVs operate at safe sound levels. The latter enables the developer to meet California’s low energy equipment requirements for geophysical surveys that are in place to minimize impacts on marine mammals and other wildlife, according to RWE.

Furthermore, in compliance with U.S. permitting requirements and to ensure the project is developed in a responsible and safe manner, certified and independent Protected Species Observers (PSOs) will be on board the survey vessel 24 hours a day to detect and avoid marine mammals during survey activities and to collect visual observation data on marine wildlife.

“RWE has selected Geo SubSea and Coastal 35 Consulting to provide PSOs on survey vessels and Smultea Sciences to deliver PSO training to Tribal citizens and Humboldt County community members to increase the involvement and workforce opportunities for individuals who possess local and Indigenous knowledge of the area during the site investigation campaign,” the developer said in a press release on 12 June.

RWE said it was also working closely with partners in the fishing and maritime industries to communicate its survey plans and water activities. The company is sending local commercial fishermen to Global Wind Organization (GWO) safety training, and local commercial fishermen identified by the area’s fishing industry will serve as Onboard Fisheries Liaisons (OFLs) on the survey vessel to manage at-sea communication and coordination with the fishing fleet during survey activities.

The Canopy floating offshore wind farm in California is expected to be in operation by the mid-2030s.

Besides RWE, the winners of the 2022 federal auction in California – the first US offshore wind lease sale on the Pacific coast and the first-ever to procure floating wind capacity in the country – were Equinor, Invenergy California Offshore, Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners, and Ocean Winds.