• Oregon offshore wind energy farm project announced
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     | February 06,2014
     
    ap file photo

    This photo shows a speed boat passing by offshore windmills in the North Sea, offshore from near Esbjerg, Denmark. Officials have announced plans to develop a similar farm off Oregon’s coast.

    PORTLAND, Ore. — A Seattle company is being given the green light to develop plans to build the West Coast’s first offshore wind energy farm — five floating turbines off Oregon’s Coos Bay, federal and state officials said Wednesday.

    The 30-megawatt pilot project was announced at a press conference by Gov. John Kitzhaber, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Tommy Beaudreau.

    Proponents say offshore wind technology could bring clean, efficient electricity, create new jobs and stimulate the economy.

    The pilot project will be developed by Seattle-based Principle Power using floating wind turbine technology that has not been deployed in U.S. waters but is in use or under development in Europe and Asia.

    The Oregon facility would be 15 miles from shore, in about 1,400 feet of water. The turbines would be connected by electrical cables and have a single power cable transmitting electricity to the mainland.

    Several offshore projects are in the works on the Atlantic coast, but they don’t use floating platform technology. Instead, they are anchored to the seabed.

    Experts say the West Coast has not yet seen offshore wind projects because the technology needs are different.

    The ocean gets deeper more quickly on the West Coast, so turbine towers cannot be planted directly into the seabed, said Belinda Batten, director of the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center at Oregon State University. Instead, companies need to use devices supported on floating platforms.

    Another challenge in bringing the technology to Oregon is the price tag. But that should not be a deterrent, Batten said.

    “We’re not as anxious to commercialize it, but it’s still worth getting the projects into the water and testing them,” she said. “As we learn how to deploy and maintain them, the price will come down.”

    In December 2012, Principle Power, Inc. received $4 million in Department of Energy funding for the project — one of seven to receive funding and the only one on the West Coast. The DOE plans to select up to three of the original seven proposals to go forward with an additional $46.6 million dollars.

    The Seattle company submitted a request to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for a commercial wind energy lease in May 2013. Since other developers were not interested in constructing wind facilities in the same area, the company may now submit a plan under the noncompetitive process. The federal agency will then complete an environmental analysis, which includes opportunity for public comment, before making a final decision.

    Offshore wind power has been the new frontier in renewable energy. Several offshore wind farms are in the works off the Atlantic coast of the U.S. In Nantucket Sound off Cape Cod, a company has been cleared to build 130 turbines that would supply 75 percent of the power for Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket. In Rhode Island, a five-turbine farm off Block Island that would generate enough electricity for about 10,000 homes is being planned.

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