When you stand on the beach on a nice day like this and gaze out into the ocean, you can see maybe ten miles. Right about there on the horizon is where a Seattle company is hoping to float a wind farm.
It would be off the Oregon Coast near Tillamook Bay. The offshore developer hopes mooring the floating windmills that far out will short-circuit opposition.
The turbines would be even bigger than the giant windmills sprouting along the mid-Columbia River. Correspondent Tom Banse reports from the Oregon Coast.
Think back to your last trip to the beach. Do you remember if the wind was blowing? I bet you it was. And that’s what interests energy developer Alla Weinstein.
Alla Weinstein: “The wind resource offshore is a lot stronger and more consistent than it is on shore.”
The challenge is how to harness that wind to make electricity.
Alla Weinstein: “Because the ocean is fairly deep very quickly.”
On our Pacific Coast, certainly. Weinstein founded a company called Principle Power. The start-up is trying to do something never done before — namely build a floating wind farm. Weinstein proposes to marry two existing technologies to do this.
Alla Weinstein: “We actually are not inventing the wheel. We are reusing the wheel. The wheels that we are reusing are the offshore platforms that were developed for the offshore oil industry and also the (wind) turbines that have been developed first for use on land.”
Weinstein and her Oregon project manager have just finished presenting their plans to a community meeting in the postcard pretty town of Manzanita.
The company picked Tillamook County because high-voltage transmission lines come closest to the coast here. The plans eventually call for 30 wind turbines, each on its own floating platform anchored to the sea bottom. The turbines are bound to generate local jobs, too.
Manzanita architect Tom Bender listened to the presentation and then came out against what he calls “industrialization of the ocean.”
Tom Bender: “The red lights on these things… These 400-500 foot tall towers obviously have flashing red lights. You get that on a foggy evening, the entire sky is pulsing red lights.”
Danish naval officer Frants Poulsen retired to Manzanita. He comes to an opposite conclusion.
Frants Poulsen: “A windmill is a beautiful machine. They have been with humans for 10,000 years and it contributes to preserving our planet.”
Fishermen are another constituency to assuage. Charter boat captain Jon Brown foresees less disruption from the offshore wind farm than proposed wave energy parks nearer to shore.
Jon Brown: “I much rather have wind energy 10 miles offshore than wave energy right by the beach. Yeah, no question about that.”
Still in question is whether the price of the electricity from an offshore wind farm will be affordable. A different company from Seattle prepared an estimate in connection with a combination wave and wind energy platform it proposed near Westport, Washington.
Burt Hamner is president of Grays Harbor Ocean Energy Company.
Burt Hamner: “It is expensive and there’s no way around that. It’ll cost twice as much per megawatt – or twice as much per unit of energy — to produce the power offshore as it will onshore. The reality though is that in many places there’s nowhere else to get that much energy onshore.”
The Principle Power folks insist their electricity will be priced “competitively with other sources of new renewable energy.” The Seattle company recently signed a contract with the biggest electric company in Portugal.
The pair plan to moor the world’s first floating wind farm in the east Atlantic, not here, with development off our coast to follow second.
Sales pitches to utilities for the Oregon offshore power start later this year or next.
U.S. Dept. of Interior – Offshore renewable energy potential (PowerPoint delivered by Secretary Ken Salazar on 4/6/09)
BY TOM BANSE, OPB News – http://news.opb.org/article/4813-offshore-wind-energy-blows-nw-coast/