Jason Busch Pacific Ocean Energy Trust

Jason Busch

RE: Solar and Wind Need to be Allowed to Replace Coal Editorial

Solar and wind have dominated the list of new renewables being developed to help transition society away from fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, and Oregon has benefited from the developments to date, including clean, cost effective energy that is safe and sustainable, as well as billions of dollars of local investment. Economies of scale continue to drive down cost for renewables, which already today, around the world, can compete with traditional energy sources on price; and the costs continue to go down. In short, the future of energy is renewable.

While the desert uplands of Eastern Oregon provide ample opportunity for renewables development, the ocean (“The ocean is a desert with its life underground!”) also provides opportunity for clean energy development. Today, there is growing interest in floating offshore wind energy, an emerging sector that combines well-developed technologies from other sectors at sea with the now common bottom-mounted wind turbines.

This new sector provides the ability to float turbines 20 or more miles from shore. That’s still very close to the coastal communities that need the power, but it also allows projects to be sited beyond viewsheds and outside the busy and fragile near-shore coastal environment, thus minimizing potential effects on the ocean and its users.

One of benefits of floating offshore wind is that the wind turbines can be much larger than terrestrial wind. While most land-based turbines are 3 megawatts or less, sea-based turbines now push 15 megawatts! If 1 megawatt can power around 1,000 homes (depends on season and AC/electric heat use), then…well, you can do the math. And for those who prefer horsepower, a 15 megawatt turbine is the equivalent of about 20,000 horsepower! These larger turbines spin more slowly, are more efficient, and operate at their maximum capacity more regularly.

Last week the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) and Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development (DLCD) hosted the BOEM Offshore Wind Taskforce to discuss public and stakeholder engagement for potential future development off our coast. Ultimately, BOEM and the state will identify areas as most appropriate for OSW development, and companies will compete to develop them.

Over the next couple of years, there will be much debate about OSW, its potential effects, and whether it’s “right for Oregon.” Given the imperative of transitioning off fossil fuels and the enormous economic stimulus that this sector represents, we hope that Oregon will give this opportunity due consideration. Around 3 gigawatts (3,000 megawatts) of OSW generation is feasible for Oregon over the next 15 years. At about $3,000,000,000 of investment per gigawatt of installed generation, that represents quite an investment in our state.

While Eastern Oregonians may be focused on High Desert issues, your neighbors to the west are taking a good look at this new marine opportunity. We at the Pacific Ocean Energy Trust have been advocating for marine energy for years, and we’re very excited about offshore wind. We would like to develop our renewable resources and contribute to Oregon’s energy needs with locally sited projects that increase our energy resilience, improve our climate and environment, and provide high wage, sustainable jobs for our families.

With some collaborative forethought Oregon can and should meet its renewable energy objectives without sacrificing our values, and floating OSW should be part of that mix.

Jason Busch is executive director of the Pacific Ocean Energy Trust and lives in Portland.

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