US West Coast to Get Floating Turbines

To date growth of wind turbine projects has been concentrated on the east coast. But a 30MW wind farm project using floating turbines off Oregon is being proposed by Principle Power in the 1st quarter of 2016.

Principle Power, a US based rig specialist based in Seattle, is expecting the WindFloat Pacific Project of 6MW Siemens floating turbines to be operational by the end of 2017. It will be sited 30 kilometers off Coos Bay with a depth of 366 meters, a location where wind speed could get to 9m/s and higher. The floating platform and turbines will be assembled on dry land then towed to the ocean. This is a safer and cheaper alternative to building them at sea, according to Principle Power.

The BOEM or Bureau of Ocean Energy Management of the United States announced that the lease request of Principle submitted in May was completed in late September. BOEM also began checking out if there are other interested parties for the same site before deciding if they will hold a competitive auction. But, Kevin Bannister, the project manager of the project doubts if there will be any competitive interest since he said any competitor will have to have “credible plans.” Even the wind analyst of BNEF or Bloomberg New Energy Finance also have misgivings if there will be competitive interests. At present BOEM can’t be reached because of the government shutdown.

Principle Power was granted $4 million by the Department of Energy for advanced technology demonstration in 2012. The company will apply for another grant of a maximum of $47 million for the completion of the project. It is expected that DOE will decide on the approval of the 2nd grant by the middle of May. The two grants necessitate cost sharing. According to Banister if they are not chosen they’ll need to re-evaluate the project which will definitely make it more difficult.

Det Norske Veritas, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), American Bureau of Shipping, Houston Offshore engineering, MacArtney Underwater Technology and Siemens are Principle’s partners for this project.

The Windfloat Pacific Project of Principle is an upgraded version of a single prototype that Principle developed with Vestas and EDP off the coast of Portugal. Said single prototype has a 2MW v80 Vestas on a windfloat platform. According to Principle, this is the 1st offshore wind turbine project that is installed using conventional tug vessels but is only in a water depth of 45 meters. The project on Coos Bay will have longer mooring lines but the design of the foundation will be the same as the Portuguese project.

In a statement issued by NREL, it cited the potentials of floating foundations’ opening a vast wind resource over the deep waters of the West Coast. Oregon, together with the rest of the Pacific Northwest, has an offshore capability of 342GW for locations with a yearly wind speed average of 7m/s or even higher at 90 meters. California’s potential is 589GW. NREL however, warned that swells and high waves in the Pacific Northwest “may increase fatigue concerns on offshore wind turbine structures.”

Walt Musial, the offshore wind manager of NREL, said that floating foundations would yet to attain commercial maturity in 8 to ten years, and a west coast offshore wind industry is also far off. He added that Principle’s breakthrough is a positive move but one venture is not an industry.

According to Banister, challengers are not foreseen, quite the opposite to what Cape Wind coped with in populous New England. The project at Coos Bay will not be noticeable at all from shore.

Musial of NREL also noted that the regulatory environment in the US is not yet mature despite the existence of a significant renewable energy demand in the region, particularly in California which is close by. California has a projected 33{82e5879b62f9f0cbb622da6aeaafa5e16d37c32fcd77ff762e12cec7a1007225} renewable portfolio demand by 2020.

To date, California, Oregon and Washington state have reached a decision to collaborate with DOE, BOEM and other agencies to assess the impacts and benefits of offshore renewable energy. For BOEM, an additional objective is to develop regulatory and planning structure.

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