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OFFSHORE WIND ENERGY – AN ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITY FOR OREGON

A combination of recent developments has created a massive new economic opportunity for the port of Coos Bay.  Utility scale solar and wind generation are now less expensive than new coal or gas plants. Last September California, the world’s fifth largest economy, passed legislation (SB 100) requiring that 100% of its electric power be carbon-free by 2045. However, land-use restrictions, real estate costs, increasing scarcity of prime sites and other factors will limit the build-out of California’s onshore wind and solar capacity.

These factors create a huge opportunity for offshore wind generation of electricity on the west coast.  Typically stronger and more consistent than winds on land, offshore winds can help fill some gaps created at night by solar.  The U.S. offshore potential is estimated to be four times the current generating capacity of the entire country. The area with the highest energy potential on the entire west coast is an offshore zone extending from Coos Bay 300 miles south into Northern California. 

Coos Bay is the largest deep draft coastal harbor from San Francisco to the Puget Sound.  It is well suited to establish itself as the nucleus for the development of this unique and vital natural resource. Much of the economic benefit that results from floating offshore wind farms comes from activities that are all done in port – staging turbines and components, assembly, local fabrication of parts, maintenance, operations base, etc.  Completed turbines are towed offshore and anchored. If needed they are towed back to port for major maintenance and upgrades.  

If the supply chain, assembly and service operations take root in Coos Bay, it will diversify the economy of the south coast and provide thousands of sustainable family-wage jobs according to a recent NREL/UC Berkeley report. Offshore wind is a new industry compared to land-based wind, but already employs 50,000 in Germany and the UK alone.  Developers are currently planning wind farms in California waters near the Oregon border. This provides a window of opportunity to leverage the superior port facilities at Coos Bay and secure the construction, operations and maintenance activities for these projects.

Once a port is selected and the process begins, there is little incentive to duplicate it anywhere nearby due to the ease of transporting (towing) floating turbines.  Oregon has a mature ($15 billion) marine construction industry and several major international players in offshore wind energy. With a focused effort, Coos Bay and Oregon can become a major hub on the Pacific coast for this promising new industry.

 

Michael Mitton–10/19/19  

 

 

 

THE ROUND TABLE

The conversation has expanded

Pacific Ocean Energy TrustBusiness Oregon, Oregon Department of Energy, Oregon State University – Pacific Marine Energy Center, South Coast Development Council Inc., Coos County, Coquille Tribe, DB Western Inc., Renewables Northwest, Portland General Electric, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Northwest Power and Conservation Council, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Regional Solutions Gov’s Office, Parametrix, Sause Brothers, Sol Coast Companies, Curry County, Principle Power, Equinor, Cierco, Orsted, Magellan Wind, Invenergy, Aker Solutions, Mainstream Renewables