Oregon’s ocean energy landscape has a potential new player. On Wednesday February 5, 2014, The U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) gave the green light to a developer to submit plans for a floating wind farm 15 miles off of Coos Bay. This is only the first step in a long permitting process, so we are unlikely to see the turbines any time soon, but it is a new development for ocean energy.
The developer of the project, Principle Power, Inc., out of Seattle Washington, began the process in May of 2013 by submitting an unsolicited proposal to lease 15 square miles approximately 15 nautical miles off of Coos Bay Oregon. As proposed the “WindFloat Pacific Project” would consist of five 6.0 megawatt (MW) wind turbine generators mounted on floating foundations, anchored to the seafloor in 1,200 to 1,600 feet water depth. The decision on Wednesday is by no means the last word on the project; it simply authorizes Principle Power to submit plans to the BOEM. The next step in the process would likely involve a determination under NEPA. As the proposal is outside the state’s 12 mile territorial sea, the state of Oregon would not have permitting authority, but may submit comments to the federal government as the project moves forward.
Momentum appears to be growing for off-shore wind energy projects. BOEM has issued two non-competitive leases in the northeast (one for an area off of Delaware and the other for the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound) and three competitive leases (two offshore Massachusetts-Rhode Island and another offshore Virginia). The BOEM is considering additional competitive auctions for wind energy areas offshore Maryland, New Jersey and Massachusetts in 2014. However, the project off of Oregon’s coast is the first offshore wind energy on the Pacific coast. Although it is a long way from making it into the water, the project bears watching.
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