Federal officials have given the go-ahead for the West Coast’s first offshore wind project, off the coast of Coos Bay.
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and Tommy Beaudreau, director of the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said Wednesday that Seattle-based Principle Power Inc. has received the go ahead to craft plans for a 30-megawatt pilot project that uses floating wind turbine technology.
The project would generate the electricity equivalent to what 7,000 to 9,000 homes use each year.
Jewell and Beaudreau made the announcement with Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.
Beaudreau said the project’s timetable hasn’t been established. The officials also offered no number of potential jobs the project might create.
Principle Power received $4 million in Department of Energy funding for its “advanced technology demonstration project.” The company had submitted an unsolicited request to the Ocean Energy bureau for a commercial wind energy lease in May 2013.
As part of his climate change initiatives, President Obama had charged Jewell with finding at least 20 gigawatts worth of renewable energy projects on public lands.
“One important opportunity that has yet to be tapped is offshore wind energy on the outer continental shelf,” she said. “(Beaudreau) has permitted projects on the East Coast with fixed stanchions” but the West Coast counts no such offshore wind projects.
The Ocean Energy bureau has issued five leases off the coasts of Delaware, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Virginia. Competitive lease sales from the projects generated about $5.4 million in high bids. The projects comprise nearly 280,000 acres. More projects are planned off the coasts of Maryland and New Jersey this year.
Principle Power will explore siting its project within a 15-square-mile lease area. The project would consist of five floating “WindFloat” units equipped with a six-megawatt offshore wind turbines.
“I’m delighted that we’re on the cutting edge of this emerging field,” Kitzhaber said. “People in our coastal communities recognize the promise of this new renewable energy source. Climate and energy are two of our biggest issues going forward. These are issues that demonstrate we can create economic activity and good jobs without sacrificing our environmental stewardship.”
The West Coast’s offshore wind power capability is estimated at 800 gigawatts-plus, or about three-quarters of the nation’s full power generation capacity.
Jewell, Kitzhaber and Beaudreau met with commercial fisheries and other interested parties Wednesday morning before announcing the pilot project.
The Ocean Energy bureau collected 18 responses to a request for information on the project.