PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) – The first lease auction for the development of commercial-scale floating wind farms in the deep waters of the U.S. West Coast is being held Tuesday.
A live, online auction for five leases — three on California’s central coast and two on the north coast — drew strong interest, with 43 companies from around the world bidding. The wind turbines will float about 25 miles offshore.
The rise of offshore wind comes as climate change intensifies and the need for clean energy increases. It’s also getting cheaper. The cost of developing offshore wind has fallen 60% since 2010, according to a July report By the International Renewable Energy Agency. It decreased by 13% in 2021 alone.
Offshore wind is well established in the UK and some other countries, but it’s just starting to take off off the coast of America, and this is the country’s first foray into floating wind turbines. Auctions have so far been for seabed anchors.
There is some floating offshore wind in Europe — a project in the North Sea has been operating since 2017 — but the potential for the technology is greater in windy areas off the American coast, said Josh Kaplowitz, vice president of offshore wind at American Clean Power. Association.
“We know it works. We know it can supply a large proportion of our electricity needs, and if we want to solve the climate crisis, we need to bring as many clean electrons online as possible, especially given the growing demand for electric vehicles.” he said. “We can only meet our greenhouse gas targets with offshore wind.”
Similar auctions will be held off the Oregon coast next year and in the Gulf of Maine in 2024. President Joe Biden has set a goal. Deploying 30 gigawatts of offshore wind using traditional technology that anchors wind turbines to the ocean floor, enough to power 10 million homes by 2030. Then the administration announced its plans in September Developing floating platforms that could significantly expand offshore wind in the US.
The nation’s first offshore wind farm opened in late 2016 off the coast of Rhode Island, allowing residents of tiny Block Island to plug in five diesel generators. Wind defenders have taken notice, but with five turbines, it’s not commercial scale.
Globally, by 2021, only 123 megawatts of offshore wind were in operation, but that number is projected to grow to nearly 19 gigawatts by 2030 — a 150-fold increase, according to the report. Offshore Wind California last week.
The California sale is designed to promote local supply chains and create union jobs. Bidders can convert a portion of their bid into loans that benefit those affected by wind development – local communities, tribes and commercial fishermen.
As envisioned, the Eiffel Tower-tall turbines would float on giant triangular platforms roughly the size of a small city block, or floating cylinders with cables anchored underwater. They will each have three blades, longer than the distance from home plate to the outfield on a baseball diamond, and must be assembled on land and hauled upright to open ocean destinations.
Modern tall turbines, whether offshore or offshore, can produce 20 times more electricity than shorter machines from the early 1990s, for example.
As for visibility, “in absolutely perfect conditions, crystal clear on the best days, at the highest point, you can see little dots on the horizon,” said Larry Oetker, executive director of the Humboldt Bay Harbor, Conservation and Recreation District, which is preparing the Deepwater Harbor for projects.
Offshore wind is a good supplement to solar power that shuts down at night. Jim Berger, a partner at Norton Rose Fulbright, a law firm that specializes in financing renewable energy projects, said offshore winds are stronger and more consistent and also pick up in the evening, when solar power is offline but demand is high.
California has a goal of carbon neutrality in 2045. But “When the sun goes down, we rely more on fossil fuel generation,” Berger said. “These projects are very large, so when you add one project or multiple projects, you’re adding significantly to the electricity generation base in the state,” he said.
The leased areas have the potential to generate 4.5 gigawatts of energy — enough to power 1.5 million homes — and could make a big difference to the rural coastal communities closest to the lease.
In remote Humboldt County in northern California, offshore projects are expected to generate more than 4,000 jobs and $38 million in state and local tax revenue in an area that has been economically depressed since the decline of the timber industry in the 1970s and 1980s. , by Humboldt Bay Harbor, Conservation and Recreation Area.
Oetker, the district’s executive director, said the district has already received $12 million from California to prepare the deep-water port for the potential installation of the giant turbines, which are too tall to fit under most bridges because they are offshore.
“We have hundreds of acres of vacant, underutilized industrial property in the existing navigation channel … and there are no air bridges or power lines or anything,” he said.
But while some support the transition to clean energy, they are wary of the projects.
Environmentalists worry about the effects on endangered and threatened whales, which could become entangled in the cables that will connect the turbines. There are also concerns about birds and bats colliding with turbine blades and whales being hit by ships towing the components to the site. Kristen Hislop, senior director of the Environmental Protection Agency’s marine program, said federal regulators set a boat speed limit of less than 12 mph for the project to address that concern.
“Floating offshore wind is brand new and there are only a few projects in the world and we don’t know how it will affect our coast,” he said.
Tribals in the vast coastal regions are also concerned about the damage to their ancestral lands from turbine assembly plants and transmission infrastructure. They fear that the farms will be visible from the holy places of prayer high in the mountains on clear days.
Yurok Tribe Vice Chairman Frankie Myers has attended four wind producer conferences in the past year. The tribes said they are working with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees the leasing process, to secure a 5% proposal loan that includes tribal communities for the first time. The agency said it is also helping with a cultural assessment of the potential impact on views from sacred places of prayer.
Tribes are engaged now, early on, because they are used to outside industries coming to them with unfulfilled promises. They’ve seen things done wrong, and because they know this windy area intimately, they want it done right, he said.
“Before they even show us the map, before they even show us all their breakdowns … we know exactly where it’s going,” he said. “There is no question where the best wind comes from, we all understand that. We have been here for several thousand years.”
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