As U.S. researchers predict dramatic falls in floating wind costs in Oregon, key stakeholders are tackling critical transmission and public consultation challenges.
A recent study of five potential floating wind sites off the coast of Oregon revealed some startling results.
According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the levelized cost of offshore wind projects could be as low as $53/MWh at a site near Coos Bay in the south, rising to $74/MWh for a site near Astoria in the north.
NREL assumed projects of capacity 600 MW brought online by 2032, and using 15 MW turbines, larger than any currently on the market. Principle Power recently became the first floating wind developer to connect 8 MW turbines at its WindFloat Atlantic (WFA)
project in Portugal.
The U.S. Pacific coast is seen as a major future market for emerging floating wind technology, as water depths are too large to accommodate fixed-bottom wind farms. Several projects have been proposed in California and activity is now spreading north. Demand for renewables in Oregon is set to soar as utilities race to meet stringent state targets.
A previous floating wind project in Coos Bay, proposed by Principle Power in 2014, failed because it was too costly. Since then, rising turbine capacities, installation learnings, and economies of scale have sliced offshore wind costs.
The Coos Bay site has an average wind speed of 9.8 metres per second (m/s), the highest in the study, making it the favourite for many developers.
“I’d say that (Coos Bay) is the preferred site,” Jason Busch, Executive Director at Pacific Ocean Energy Trust (POET), a non-profit think tank which promotes responsible marine development, told New Energy Update.