US advances Oregon offshore project

The US Interior Department (DOI) says it has given a green light to developer Principle Power to submit a formal plan to build a 30MW pilot project using floating wind turbine technology off Oregon’s Pacific Ocean coast.

The WindFloat Pacific Project would be located in federal waters about 16 nautical miles (29.6km) west of Coos Bay in about 1,200 feet (365.7 meters) of water. The proposed lease area covers about 15 square miles (38.8sq km).

It is designed to generate 30MW of electricity from five "WindFloat" units, each equipped with a 6MW wind turbine. The units would be connected by electrical cables and have a single transmission line to bring power to the mainland.

It would be the first offshore wind project proposed off the west coast of the United States.

DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) says it did not receive expressions of interest for possible competing energy projects from other wind developers for use of that area.

After receiving Principle Power’s plan, BOEM will complete a National Environmental Policy Act analysis, which includes opportunity for public comment, before making any final decision on lease issuance and plan approval.

“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,” says Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

“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.”

Principle Power was one of seven offshore wind projects that in 2012 each received $4m in funding under the US Energy Department’s (DOE) Advanced Technology Demonstration Program for front-end engineering and design work.

DOE on 15 May is scheduled to select up to three proposals to go forward and provide each with $46.6m in additional funding. The winners would be required to match that amount with their own money on a 1:1basis. The winners would use the additional money to complete remaining engineering and design work, plus to help complete construction and grid integration of the pilot projects by 2017.

The West Coast holds an offshore capability of more than 800GW of wind energy potential, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.