A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats
A combination of recent developments has created an economic opportunity for Oregon’s coast
Electric power generated by utility scale solar and wind is now less expensive than using coal or gas plants. Demand for renewable energy is growing rapidly in Oregon and around the world. California, the world’s fifth largest economy, recently passed legislation 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.
The area with the highest energy potential on the Pacific is a 300 mile offshore zone extending from the south coast of Oregon into northern California.
These factors create a huge opportunity for the generation of electricity by floating offshore wind farms. The U.S. offshore wind potential is estimated to be several times that of the current generating capacity of the entire country. Typically stronger and more consistent than winds on land, offshore wind is a powerful source of energy that can fill in the gaps left by other renewables.
Coos Bay is the largest deep draft coastal harbor from San Francisco to the Puget Sound.
Coos Bay is well suited to establish itself as the marshaling port for the development of this unique and vital natural resource. The main economic benefit that results from floating offshore wind farms comes from activities that are all done in and around the port – staging turbines and components, assembly, local fabrication of parts, maintenance, and operations. Completed wind float turbines are towed 30-50 miles offshore out of sight and anchored. If needed they are towed back to port for major maintenance and re-powering.
Should Coos Bay become the marshaling port, all the neighboring ports would also benefit from the many activities that are required to create and maintain a large scale offshore wind farm. This would diversify the economy of the south coast and provide thousands of sustainable family-wage jobs. Although offshore wind is a new industry, it already employs 50,000 in Germany and the UK alone. Projections show these numbers growing rapidly. Recent workforce studies show similar growth in the U.S., especially on the east coast where most of the 28 offshore wind projects are already in the pipeline according to the Dept. of Energy. U.S. wind energy now supports 120,000 US jobs and 530 domestic factories. A study by the University of Delaware predicted that the supply chain needed to build offshore turbines to feed power to seven East Coast states by 2030 would generate nearly $70 billion in economic activity and at least 40,000 full-time jobs. An American Wind Energy Association's (AWEA's) March 2020 report estimated that developing 30 GW of offshore wind along the East Coast could support up to 83,000 jobs and $25 billion in annual economic output by 2030. In addition to jobs, offshore winds can improve energy security on the coast which is currently susceptible to interruptions from various causes.
Developers are currently planning wind farms in California waters near the Oregon border and many are planning to do the same here soon.
The south coast can offer advantages in port facilities and transmission capacity to secure the construction, operations and maintenance activities for these projects. Taking this opportunity to be the first mover can be the spark that begins establishing the supply chain in the ports and surrounding region bringing jobs and economic sustainability. The Oregon International Port of Coos Bay, Port of Umpqua, Port of Bandon and Port Orford could once again become bustling ports on the Pacific for this promising new industry.
Early local involvement is key to securing the most advantageous outcomes for the communities and citizens of the south coast. All local stakeholders can participate in developing and securing these 21st century energy projects so that they maximize the benefits and reduce the impacts to our communities.
Your voice is needed and welcomed as the conversation continues in how the future unfolds in our backyards and offshore waters.