West Coast Floating Offshore Wind Project Gets DOI Green Light to Advance

The first offshore wind project proposed in federal waters off the West Coast garnered approval from the Department of Interior (DOI) on Wednesday to submit a formal construction plan.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) gave Principle Power the green light to submit a formal plan to build a 30-MW pilot project that will use floating wind turbine technology offshore Coos Bay, Ore.

Principle Power’s project, which could take up a 15-square-mile proposed lease area in waters 1,400 feet deep, is designed to generate power from five floating “WindFloat” units. Each of the 6-MW turbines would be connected by electrical cables and have a single power cable transmitting the power to the mainland, the DOI said.

Principle Power got $4 million in Department of Energy funding for its advanced technology demonstration. In May 2013, it submitted an unsolicited request to BOEM for a commercial wind energy lease. BOEM later issued a request for interest (RFI) to determine whether there were other developers interested in constructing wind facilities in the same area proposed by Principle Power. None of the 18 responses to the RFI expressed a competitive interest in the area, however.

“Under the noncompetitive process for which Principle Power qualified, the company may now submit a plan for the proposed lease area to BOEM. BOEM will then complete a National Environmental Policy Act analysis, which includes opportunity for public comment, before making any final decision on lease issuance and plan approval,” the DOI said.

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the West Coast holds more than 800 GW of wind energy potential.

BOEM has to date issued two non-competitive leases (Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound and an area off Delaware) and three competitive leases (two offshore Massachusetts/Rhode Island and another offshore Virginia). The competitive lease sales generated about $5.4 million in high bids for about 277,550 acres on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf. Additional competitive auctions for wind energy areas offshore Maryland, New Jersey, and Massachusetts are expected in 2014.

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)

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