Offshore Oregon Wind Gains State Financing Advocate

Principle Power, based in Berkeley, Calif., has gained a governmental finance partner in its effort to build up to a 24 MW offshore wind generator 18 miles off the coast of Coos Bay, Ore., at a site with water depth of about 1,000 feet.

Gov. Kate Brown on Aug. 26 announced the formation of the WindFloat Pacific Offshore Wind Advisory Committee in order “to identify smart solutions for Oregon’s economy through the burgeoning offshore wind energy industry.”

Kevin Banister, the project developer for the WindFloat project, said that for this project, the governor’s committee will primarily work at developing and securing a power purchase agreement. While the total cost of the demonstration project is expected to be higher than a larger plant built thereafter, the cost per kilowatt/hour of large plants will be competitive with other renewable energy sources, he said.

Deepwater Wind, based in Providence, R.I., was selected last year to complete the development of the WindFloat project.

Principle, which is just beginning to build its Block Island plant offshore of Rhode Island, has already won $4 million in U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funding to develop the first phase of the WindFloat project. In May 2014, WindFloat was selected by DOE for second phase work, including follow-on design, fabrication and a deployment target to achieve commercial operation on an accelerated timeframe.

The company also now is eligible for up to $46.7 million in additional funding over four years, subject to congressional appropriations and annual progress reviews, according to DOE.

The WindFloat plant will be assembled on shore and towed out to sea, mitigating the need for the costly vessels typically used to assemble and install offshore wind systems at sea, the company said. The system “has the potential to harness the more than 60 percent of U.S. offshore wind resources that are found in deep water and is the first offshore wind project planned on the West Coast.”

Principle in October 2011 deployed a full-scale prototype WindFloat five kilometers off the coast of Aguçadoura, Portugal.

“The winds in Oregon are stronger than in Portugal, where waves hit 50 to 60 feet sometimes,” Banister said. “The advantage offshore wind has over onshore wind is a higher quality and more consistent wind source.:

He also said that offshore wind can deliver power to a consumption center, such as San Francisco, where the development of new transmission lines might be difficult.

“With coastal utilities facing higher renewable portfolio standards, offshore wind clearly should be a part of those,” he said.

DOE describes WindFloat as having “innovative features that dampen wave and turbine induced motion, enabling wind turbines to be sited in previously inaccessible locations where water depth exceeds 50 meters and wind resources are superior.” In addition, DOE said that “economic efficiency is maximized by reducing the need for offshore heavy lift operations during final assembly deployment and commissioning.”

Governor Brown said, “This advisory committee will work to identify viable pathways to procure the WindFloat Project in Oregon, ensuring that Oregonians benefit from this opportunity to boost our state’s economy, increase local jobs, and responsibly preserve existing jobs, all while expanding access to renewable energy.”

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that there potentially could be 8,000 MW of offshore wind built off the U.S. West Coast, which would support over 25,000 jobs.

Lead image credit: Principle Power

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Charles W. Thurston is a journalist who specializes in renewable energy, from finance to technological processes. He has been active in the industry for over 25 years, living and working in locations ranging from Brazil to Papua New Guinea.

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