On the heels of President Obama's State of the Union address where he laid out actions to move the economy toward clean energy sources, reduce carbon pollution and create jobs, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell today announced an important step forward for the first offshore wind project proposed for federal waters off the West Coast.
Governor John Kitzhaber and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Director Tommy P. Beaudreau joined Jewell to announce that BOEM has given the green light for Principle Power, Inc. to submit a formal plan to build a 30- megawatt pilot project using floating wind turbine technology offshore Coos Bay, Oregon.
"Today's announcement is consistent with President Obama's commitment to take actions that will create jobs and develop clean, domestic energy that powers our economy," said Jewell. "This pioneering project would demonstrate floating wind turbine technology capable of tapping the rich wind energy resources in deep waters offshore Oregon. As we look to broaden our nation's energy portfolio, the innovative technology and its future application hold great promise along the West Coast and Hawaii."
The West Coast holds an offshore capability of more than 800 gigawatts of wind energy potential, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which is equivalent to more than three quarters of the nation's entire power generation capacity. Total U.S. deepwater wind energy resource potential is estimated to be nearly 2,000 gigawatts.
"Today marks a milestone in ocean renewable energy, and also the next big leap for cutting-edge innovation necessary to meet our energy and carbon reduction goals," said Governor Kitzhaber. "These critical partnerships with our federal, regional, tribal, and local partners are advancing an energy future that supports a healthy economy and good jobs while strengthening Oregon's legacy of environmental stewardship."
In the morning, Jewell, Kitzhaber and Beaudreau convened a roundtable meeting with stakeholders in Oregon, underscoring the federal and state's commitment to work collaboratively with interested parties -- including commercial fisheries -- to evaluate the project and its potential impacts. The meeting builds upon dialogues held through the BOEM-Oregon Renewable Energy Task Force, a group of federal, state, local and tribal governmental partners that has been working since 2011 to promote strong consultation on Outer Continental Shelf renewable energy development projects.
"The Task Force has been key in providing meaningful input on what makes sense for Oregon when it comes to renewable energy offshore, and we look forward to continuing to partner with the community to support promising clean energy technology," said Beaudreau. "The WindFloat Pacific project is the latest in a series of lease initiatives BOEM has undertaken to move forward offshore wind energy development. On the Atlantic Coast, the five commercial project leases we've issued, if fully developed, could generate enough renewable energy to power 1.4 million homes."
BOEM has issued two non-competitive leases (Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound and an area off Delaware) and three competitive leases (two offshore Massachusetts-Rhode Island and another offshore Virginia). The competitive lease sales generated about $5.4 million in high bids for about 277,550 acres on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. Additional competitive auctions for wind energy areas offshore Maryland, New Jersey and Massachusetts are expected in 2014.
Principle Power, Inc. will seek to site its project within a 15 square mile proposed lease area. The project is designed to generate electricity from five floating "WindFloat" units, each equipped with a 6-megawatt offshore wind turbine. The turbines would be connected by electrical cables and have a single power cable transmitting the electricity to the mainland. The facility, sited in about 1,400 feet of water, would be the first offshore wind project proposed in federal waters off the West Coast and the first in the nation to use a floating structure to support offshore wind generation in the Outer Continental Shelf.
Principle Power, Inc., which received $4 million in Department of Energy funding for its advanced technology demonstration project, submitted an unsolicited request to BOEM for a commercial wind energy lease in May, 2013. As an initial step in the leasing process, in September, BOEM issued a Request for Interest (RFI) in the Federal Register to determine whether there were other developers interested in constructing wind facilities in the same area proposed by Principle Power, Inc. The RFI was also the first opportunity for public comment on site conditions and multiple uses within the proposed lease area. The public comment period closed on October 30, 2013.
BOEM received 18 responses to the RFI, none of which expressed a competitive interest in the area proposed by Principle Power, Inc. Accordingly, today BOEM published a Determination of No Competitive Interest in the Federal Register. The majority of the comments submitted to BOEM discussed potential effects on commercial fisheries, which BOEM will consider during the course of evaluating the project.
Under the noncompetitive process for which Principle Power qualified, the company may now submit a plan for the proposed lease area to BOEM. BOEM will then complete a National Environmental Policy Act analysis, which includes opportunity for public comment, before making any final decision on lease issuance and plan approval.
Yesterday, Jewell met with the Pacific Northwest Regional Infrastructure Team as part of the Obama Administration's commitment to engaging states in speeding the permitting of responsible and environmentally sound infrastructure development. Established last year through an agreement with Oregon Governor Kitzhaber, Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Idaho Governor Butch Otter, the Team met to discuss priorities, opportunities and solutions to transmission and infrastructure challenges in the Northwest in 2014.